Maplewood to Consider Revised ‘Welcoming Community’ Measure to Protect Immigrants

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After weighing input from the community and law enforcement leaders — and engaging in thorough and sometimes spirited debate — the Maplewood Township Committee is set to present a revised resolution that would proclaim the town a “welcoming community” and codify its commitment to equal treatment of immigrants, regardless of their status.

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,” the measure is a response to concerns about the incoming federal administration’s stance on undocumented immigrants and fears that such immigrants might be targets of vitriol and violence.

See the full resolution here:

Download (PDF, 174KB)

The TC will discuss and possibly vote on the measure at its meeting on Tuesday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. (See the full agenda here.)

“The changes were the result of public comment when the initial draft was posted,” said Mayor Vic DeLuca. “We received good suggestions, many of which found their way into the current draft.”

In effect, the resolution (which is more of a statement of position as opposed to a formal ordinance) establishes that the mission of Maplewood law enforcement officials is to enforce state and local laws and protect the community, and “not to administer Federal Immigration Laws,” while still adhering to the directives and guidelines of the New Jersey Attorney General when it comes to interaction with immigration authorities.

The governing body also added the phrase “Welcoming Community” to the resolution’s title to “make a pro-active statement about our welcoming status,” DeLuca said.

The changes follow a discussion at the last meeting, when TC member Greg Lembrich asked that some of the language be strengthened. Referencing an “outpouring” of comments made in online forums and in emails he received from community members, Lembrich asserted that the township should make clear it is taking steps “to affirmatively direct policies that will safeguard immigrants and marginalized groups.”

Township Committeeman Frank McGehee agreed with Lembrich: “Let’s be more firm, let’s be more direct, let’s take a stance.”

While other TC members were largely in agreement, DeLuca and Committeewoman India Larrier former TC member Ian Grodman (who along with Township Counsel Roger Desiderio negotiated the first draft with input from Police Chief Robert Cimino) stressed that while law enforcement officials should not use immigration status as a “triggering event” in interactions with residents, the township would continue to comply with the Attorney General’s directives.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams said, “If there is another crime being investigated to which the immigration status has to be looked at… then that should be permitted.” For instance, if immigration officials conducted a raid on a building in Maplewood, the police would not actively participate in the raid but might be involved in helping maintain public safety by closing down the street.

There was some initial dispute about Cimino’s role in providing input regarding the resolution’s language. Lembrich pointed out that the chief “works for the people of Maplewood, they don’t work for him” while DeLuca noted that Cimino is in charge of enforcing criminal laws in town and as such should be consulted.

DeLuca said that there was further discussion with Cimino before finalizing the current draft.

Other changes were minor, with the exception of the addition of the following item:

“The Township Committee hearby joins with a growing number of municipalities and organizations in standing up to threats against privacy and liberties by taking meaning full steps to insure that communities are safe and the rights of all residents are respected.”
“We wanted to express our solidarity with others around the country taking similar actions,” said DeLuca.
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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