Maplewood Mulls ‘Sanctuary Community’ Status to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

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As a response to the election of Donald J. Trump — who pledged during his campaign to increase deportation of undocumented immigrants — and as a response to the reported post-election uptick in hate crimes, Maplewood officials say they will consider designating the town as a “Sanctuary Community” or a “safe haven” for such immigrants.

In effect, the designation would instruct local law enforcement officials to not comply with federal law enforcement in deportation efforts.

Several cities, most notably San Francisco and Chicago, as well as Newark and Jersey City in New Jersey, have designated themselves sanctuary communities and have enacted ordinances to ensure local officials, including police and welfare agents, are not put in a position to cooperate with federal agencies investigating residents’ immigration status.

Township committeeman Ian Grodman, who is a practicing immigration attorney, proposed the idea at Monday’s TC meeting. He said there were between 11 and 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and that Maplewood was home to some.

“We see hundreds coming to Maplewood every single day to work,” said Grodman, “living, working and contributing to our community and our country.” Noting the post-election spike in hate crimes, Grodman said undocumented immigrants had been “vilified.”

[A portion of Monday’s discussion can be seen in this YouTube video.]

Township Committeeman Greg Lembrich expressed enthusiasm for the idea, and suggested going “a step further” and issuing a statement that Maplewood “will not do anything to aid or cooperate with federal immigration authorities…that require identification, registration or other adverse action against persons based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or immigration status. Nor should the town deny any services or resources to a person based on their status.”

Lembrich said he would like the town to “let residents know we have their backs.” He continued, “One of the tragedies of this election is the ‘othering’ of America. It’s anathema to us [that has] made so many of us sick to our stomachs to see it.”

President-elect Trump has previously threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. (By at least one estimate, New York City could stand to lose $6 billion in funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise.) Asked if sanctuary status could potentially endanger any funding for Maplewood, Grodman said, “If a new regulation or statute [were enacted] saying that funding could be cut for doing so, and it withstood being contested in court, then yes.”

Mayor Vic DeLuca said he would support such a measure, and he directed Township Counsel Roger Desiderio to research language for a proposal to be discussed at the December 6 meeting.

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