Letter: Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used to Be; The Sanctuary City

by The Village Green
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The following letter was written by Maplewood resident Todd Craig, who asked that Village Green post it as an open letter to the Maplewood Township Committee.

Dear Maplewood Township Committee:

Maplewood is a GREAT town. Donald Trump need not make it great again. It always has been and always will be. Maplewood is an open inclusive town, diverse in ethnic and cultural influences which make it an ideal place to raise well-rounded children who get exposed, not sheltered, from the real world.

To my surprise, I heard a member of the Maplewood Township Committee comment there are “hundreds of undocumented immigrants” who work and maybe even live in our town, thus benefitting from services that burden the taxpayer.

For those of you who have been paying attention over recent years the term “illegal immigrant” changed to “undocumented immigrants” partially because of Republican rhetoric to attract a certain group of voters who deemed it offensive for the 2008 election campaign season. I am not sure the term “undocumented” makes much sense. Was there a processing error and a document wasn’t issued?  Furthermore, the term “immigrant” refers to a lawful status, per the State Department’s definition, which is not the case. To me the term “unauthorized migrant” describes their dilemma best. They have migrated, moved across the border, and have no legal status. They are unauthorized to be in this country.

What changed, I ask? We already are an inclusive town of law abiding citizens so why do we need to label ourselves as a “Sanctuary Community” (SC)?  The term, depending on which local ordinances you read, has no real definition; it exists in a linguistic Neverland, an anti-immigration talking point.

“The term has become so loaded, it’s a little hard to know what people are referring to when they use the term sanctuary city,” said Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University Law School.

Does the TC want to protect employment rights of the undocumented people who work in this town? I am not an expert on the employment of unauthorized migrants but assume there are in the township/federal laws regarding employment practices. Sure, there may be undocumented immigrants in town; however, our inclusionary town should be one where we work with state organizations toward immigration citizenship; not deportation. I don’t think a SC label is needed to protect human rights and make sure that employed undocumented immigrants receive minimum wage and are paid fairly.

If there are unauthorized migrants living in town with children in our schools it would seem to me we are already bearing the financial costs? Furthermore, becoming a SC could mean higher taxes and while high taxes do not seem to be much of a concern to the TC, I doubt that is the goal of the proposed (SC) label.

So what is the argument for Maplewood becoming a Sanctuary Community? Is the argument from the TC that unauthorized migrants will fear deportation if they report crimes? I don’t think sanctuary policies serve as an effective “community policing“ tool but will let the Police Chief opine on that.

I believe the term SC is being used to try and convey an ideology which could have unintended consequences that need to be considered in great depth. Maplewood is not looking to be a place of safe haven for criminal activities, is it? Newark is a SC. It has been since 2013. Newark’s directive does not mean they are withholding information from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for those who commit crimes. It should be noted that some towns across the country might have such directives.

The real intent of the TC should be to align itself with the Maplewood Police Department whose mission statement “is to serve and safeguard ALL persons within the Township in a fair, safe, professional manner consistent with the law and established goals of the community.” There are signs around town in support of those with mental health issues that read, “Maplewood is a stigma free town.” Why would we put a stigma like SC on our community? No label is needed! Yes, there is overwhelming disapproval in town with the new president-elect, but there are not going to be witch hunts to deport illegal immigrants — the vast majority whom are law-abiding individuals — because of the election results! That would be a tremendous strain of police resources and an expense too great for the citizens to bear. It is also not the job of our police to randomly stop people and check IDs, of those not suspected of committing a crime, and detain them if they are aliens.

So becoming a SC doesn’t change current operating procedures if that is the fear. I hope, and all citizens should expect, Maplewood would follow the Priority Enforcement Program, which emphasizes working with ICE and is “obligated” to contact ICE when an individual is ARRESTED. The township should not enact any policies that interfere with reporting criminals. It is simple common sense and with what seems to be a rise in crime, pedestrian accidents, and at least one suspicious death this year, the last thing we should want is criminals, regardless of origin in our town. If the goal of the TC is to harbor criminals, being a Sanctuary Community is not in the citizen’s best interest.

Todd Craig,

Editor’s note: Letters to the editors reflect the views of the writer. They are not reported stories by The Village Green. To submit a letter to the editors, email villagegreennj@gmail.com.

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