Hundreds Rally, March to Call for Sanctuary Status in South Orange

by Carolyn Maynard-Parisi
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South Orange sanctuary marchHundreds of people from South Orange and surrounding communities attended a rally on Monday to show solidarity with immigrant and Muslim communities and to call for South Orange to become a “Sanctuary Community.” Held in Spiotta Park, the rally was organized by the newly-formed SOMA Action group.

Featured speakers included immigrant and Muslim community members Kambiz Roghanchi, Nureed Saeed, Ashraf Latif, and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of Race, History, and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Additional speakers were author/journalist Krystal Sital, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, and Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca.

There were 250 people in attendance at the rally, and roughly 100 then marched to the Baird Center to speak at the monthly South Orange Legal and Personnel Committee meeting to urge town officials to pass a resolution making South Orange a Sanctuary City, said SOMA Action member Kelly Quirk.

Nureed Saeed

Nureed Saeed

Speakers stressed the need to provide a community that is safe for all residents, whether documented or not. Some spoke of how their parents and families immigrated from countries on the list of seven recently banned by Pres. Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order. “They spoke of contributions their families and Muslim communities have made in our country, and the fear they have of being targeted,” said Quirk.

Collum read a draft legislation based on one recently passed by Maplewood but with more specific language regarding South Orange police officers not being “deputized” to perform the roles of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Immigration attorney and former Maplewood Township Committeeman Ian Grodman explained how Maplewood crafted its resolution.
South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll explained the existing State of New Jersey Attorney General’s guidance to police departments, and said that South Orange has only been reporting to ICE if someone is charged with an indictable offense that would go to the county prosecutor and if there is reasonable causes to suspect someone is undocumented. Kroll noted that he could not recall the last time the SOPD has done this.
Collum addressed concerns over Pres. Trump’s threats to cease federal funding for sanctuary communities and said the federal government cannot use coercion to get states and municipalities to comply. Nearly 25 community members spoke; most were in support of the resolution and asking questions about the use of the term “sanctuary.”  Two community members spoke against the measure, Quirk said.
The township will review the suggestions and language of the draft resolution and will introduce it at the February 13 Board of Trustees Meeting at SOPAC.

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