Maplewood Township Advances ‘Sanctuary Community’ Proposal

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The Maplewood Township Committee has moved one step closer to voting on an ordinance to designating the town a “Sanctuary Community” or a “safe haven” for undocumented immigrants.

Township Commiteeeman Ian Grodman explained more details about the initiative, which he had previously proposed — at the TC meeting on Tuesday. He addressed some concerns of the public.

A number of residents and others spoke in favor of the designation, as did most of the TC members. Township Committeewoman India Larrier was cautiously in favor of the proposal but expressed some reservations about the township passing an official ordinance.

Maplewood resident Jim Nathenson had several questions about the practical implications, including how the township would coordinate with local law enforcement officials, and whether a Sanctuary designation might potentially impact federal funding to the township and the school district. He suggested that rather than an official ordinance the TC instead consider a resolution stating its support for immigration reform “to take the long view.”

Mayor Vic DeLuca said that Maplewood’s federal funding amounted to the “low six figures” while the South Orange – Maplewood School District receives roughly $4 million. Grodman stressed that there were no instances of which he was aware involving a city or municipality losing any funding because of a sanctuary designation.

DeLuca said he is in favor of an ordinance. He emphasized that the township would not circumvent any existing laws but will “make it clear that city funds and resources not be used to enforce immigration law, which is not the role of local government.”

Also, he added, in light of recent findings that 23 percent of SOMA adult residents — roughly 7,000 — are foreign born, it is “even more vital” to send a message to those residents that the town represents them and looks out for their interests.

DeLuca said he shared information with Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino, and the township will work closely with the Police Department as the process moves forward.

He directed Township Counsel Roger Desiderio to craft an ordinance for discussion in January 2017, using similar ordinances in towns such as Princeton, NJ and Salem, MA as models.

See the video of the TC meeting below.

Public comments start at the 40:00 mark.

Grodman’s comments begin at the 2:00 mark.

DeLuca’s comments begin at the 2:12 mark.


Research/reporting for this article was supported in part through an immigration reporting grant from the Center for Cooperative Media, Montclair State University, and is part of “In the Shadow of Liberty,” a year-long look at immigration in New Jersey.

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