Maplewood Leaders Strike Defiant Note on Immigration at Reorg Meeting

At today’s annual Reorganization Meeting, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca and newly sworn-in Committeeman Frank McGehee signaled strong opposition to the potential policies and the politic rhetoric on immigration espoused by President-Elect Donald J. Trump.

While the Mayor and Committeeman spoke on a number of topics (see DeLuca’s full remarks here and McGehee’s here), both men grew particularly impassioned when addressing the issue of immigration.

It’s not an unimportant topic in a community where more than 20% of adults are foreign born and where the governing body has been wrangling over whether or not to pass a Sanctuary Community resolution.

DeLuca’s voice rose during his State of the Township address when he came to the topic of immigration.

“We on the Maplewood Township Committee take our commitment to the Constitution very seriously. Our community will continue to be welcoming and open, embracing individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds, and different ages and sexual orientation,” said DeLuca. “We will not condition the provision of Township services or benefits on matters related to citizenship or immigration status. And we will not take any action to profile or register individuals or groups based on religion, race, ethnicity, national origin or immigration status.”

Toward the end of his remarks, McGehee also addressed the issue.

“My wife came to this country as an immigrant and many people in this room are the products of immigrants,” said McGehee. “Immigrants patronize our businesses, are trusted with our children when we go to work, and volunteer at our PTA events. Why should any Maplewoodian think or feel that they are limited in the country of opportunity? Not in Maplewood, not now, not tomorrow, not ever!”

“Many Maplewoodians continue to reflect on the outcome of our national election. Some have become disillusioned or disenfranchised. But it’s important to remember that true change happens at the local level,” continued McGehee, who added that “Washington, D.C.” was not “going to make sure that we are not discriminating against each other, that’s up to us.”

During public comments, local business owner and former Republican candidate for Township Committee Art Christensen urged the Township Committee to avoid the Sanctuary Community designation, saying the term was a “political football” and that the town could instead erect signs reinforcing its values of inclusion and welcoming all to the community.

However, former Mayor Fred Profeta took to the microphone to comment that her felt such a gesture was not sufficient. “Now more than ever we need to be political,” said Profeta.

Mayor DeLuca promised all that the conversation would continue on Tuesday, Jan. 3 at the next regular meeting of the Township Committee when a resolution addressing the issue would be introduced and discussed.

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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