Maplewood Becomes ‘Welcoming Community,’ Affirms Commitment to Protect Immigrants

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The Maplewood Township Committee unanimously passed a resolution that proclaims the town a “welcoming community” and codifies its commitment to equal treatment of immigrants, regardless of their status.

The document is titled “Resolution Expressing Maplewood’s Commitment to Equal, Respectful and Dignified Treatment of All People, Regardless of Their Immigration Status and to Remain a Welcoming Community.”

See the full resolution here:

Download (PDF, 174KB)

Several people spoke before the vote to commend the TC on the resolution.

A young woman who gave her name as Daniela, who represents “Wind of the Spirit,” an immigration resource center in Morristown, said in this “tense” environment it was good to give people a sense of safety. “For young people like me, I like to see there is hope and humanity, and that despite the whole Trump thing we can do better for everyone.”

Craig Garcia of NJ Working Families said, “Since Trump…there’s been a lot of fear in the immigrant community…policies like this make people feel comfortable and welcome and safe to come forward in their communities and trust their police force and local government.” Garcia said he hoped other municipalities would follow suit; and that it might also be considered at the county and state levels.

Dianna Houenou, policy counsel of the ACLU NJ, said she was proud to stand along with other members of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice in strong support of the measure.

”When local resources are used to enforce federal immigration laws, community members’ trust in their government is broken and public safety is jeopardized,” Houenou said. Maplewood is sending “a powerful message that it will not be bullied into doing the work of federal agencies, nor will it neglect its people based on citizenship or immigration status.”

She noted that the work does not end with the passing of the resolution, and encouraged the leaders to set up systems and protocols to ensure the town “is ready and able to protect its communities.”

After the vote, Mayor Vic DeLuca thanked Police Chief Robert Cimino, Township Counsel Roger Desiderio, and former TC member Ian Grodman, who originally came up with the idea. He also thanked residents and community members for their input and suggestions. “I think it got better as we discussed it…I think it’s a stronger statement.”

DeLuca said that with the uncertainties surrounding the incoming administration, “I think it’s important for us as the local governing body to say that we’re clear that our intentions of upholding the constitutional rights and liberties for all and that under no circumstances will we participate in dividing people based on citizenship or immigration status, and we will not profile …people based on where they are from or what they believe.” 

TC member Greg Lembrich noted that Cimino was pleased with the changes made from the initial draft, which he said made the document clearer and better. Lembrich also said that while the MPD’s operations procedures themselves cannot be made public, there will be a public document explaining how the department will enforce the resolution.

TC member India Larrier said she was proud of how the TC worked with residents, police and other officials to come to agreement on how to vocalize the values we hold so dear.” 

TC member Frank McGehee said it was important to realize the measure will not only protect the undocumented but the entire Maplewood immigrant community — particularly Haitians —  which are a vulnerable population. He also noted that some residents had cautioned the TC to not “swing the pendulum to the extreme” in crafting a resolution.

“…this resolution addresses and reaffirms our commitment to our town and our most valuable asset, its people,” said McGehee.

Regarding President-elect Trump, McGehee had this to say: “This is not about him but about us, and [it] reaffirms who we are, publicly and firmly.”

This story is part of “In the Shadow of Liberty,” a year-long look at immigration in New Jersey sponsored by the Center for Cooperative Media, Montclair State University.

This story is part of “In the Shadow of Liberty,” a year-long look at immigration in New Jersey sponsored by the Center for Cooperative Media, Montclair State University.

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