In light of recent events, including Donald Trump’s firing Sally Yates, the Acting Attorney General, I thought I’d re-post this item from November, on the so-called “Muslim registry.” Actions like Yates’s were just what I had in mind when I wrote the post. My hope is that others will emulate her.
A postscript: In the November post, I mentioned that I had intended to try my proposal out on the Bergen County Prosecutor, Gurbir Grewal, on a visit he was making to my university that week. The question I asked him back in November was whether he would be willing to withhold county law enforcement resources from efforts to enforce unconstitutional deportation orders. He side-stepped the question to some degree, pointing out that he was obliged, in the case of undocumented aliens within his custody, to pass relevant information on to the federal immigration authorities, and presumably to cooperate in any legal proceedings they initiated.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear connection between the authority and responsibility of a county prosecutor like Grewal, and Executive Orders of the sort handed down by the Trump Administration. Trump’s Executive Order on entry into the United States operate at international border crossings, but though Bergen County has its share of undocumented aliens, it doesn’t have an international border crossing. (The one airport within its boundaries, Teterboro, is what’s known as a “general aviation relief airport,” serving private aircraft and charter companies.)
Still, Bergen County aside, some New Jersey municipalities–Newark, Jersey City, East Orange, Maplewood, and Princeton–have effectively declared themselves sanctuary cities. It’s uncertain how effective they’ll be, and I’m skeptical about the prospects of getting such a declaration in my own somewhat centrist town, Bloomfield. In any case, I regard the sanctuary city idea (along with strategic civil disobedience and related ideas) as among the most promising of the available options for activists, lawyers, and policy makers. And now we have a role model.
Further postscript, January 31, 2017: A message from Michael Venezia, Mayor of Bloomfield:
#BloomfieldNJ I’m sure you have heard about President Trump’s recent immigration executive orders and you may be wondering what they mean for #BloomfieldNJ, particularly on the question of Sanctuary Cities. Here in New Jersey, the term does not apply like it does elsewhere, because all local police departments follow the same guidelines from the NJ Attorney General that say only people arrested for indictable offenses are to be checked for immigration status. This means that if an undocumented immigrant is charged with a serious felony he or she will be reported to the federal government. But it also means that people charged with minor criminal offenses or traffic violations, or people who are victims of crime or witnesses who are undocumented do not need to fear deportation and can interact with law enforcement without fear.
In order to keep our community safe, residents need to trust the police and feel like they can go to them to report crime without fear. That’s why policies like this one are so important, because they send a message to residents that they don’t need to stay in the shadows here in Bloomfield.
Bloomfield is a welcoming community and diversity is one of our best assets. People from many different cultures come together here to live and raise their children, and all of them should feel valued and respected. That is why the current political atmosphere and rhetoric is so troubling. Please know that our local government believes firmly that everyone deserves a chance to make a life here and we will do everything in our power and under the law to protect our residents.