LIVINGSTON, NJ — In response to the many residents who have come forward over the past few months requesting that the Livingston Township Council pass a resolution declaring the township as a “Fair and Welcoming Community,” the mayor and council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday expressing the township’s “commitment to remaining a welcoming community.”
Livingston Mayor Shawn Klein said that he and his fellow council members felt that it was important to address this issue and address it by consensus on Monday. Klein said that although there are those who wished for the council to go further on this issue, given the facts on the ground, this resolution is “reasonable, sufficient and something we can take pride in.”
“Livingston has always been a fair and welcoming community,” he said. “I think in times such as these it is worth explicitly reaffirming that principle. There is value in doing so—reminding people of Livingston’s stance will serve to make people think about this issue and give some security to those who might feel less than secure.”
Klein was echoed by all council members that the resolution is a short and sweet but efficient way to express the fact that Livingston has always been and will continue to be a welcoming community.
The language in the official resolution states:
“We have long embraced and welcomed individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds and will continue our commitment to equal, respectful and dignified treatment of all people, regardless of their immigration status, and to remain a welcoming community.”
Councilman Al Anthony, speaking highly of the annual Diversity Festival that was held at the West Essex YMCA the previous afternoon, said Livingston is a township of tolerance and inclusion and that the adopted resolution “encompasses everything that makes Livingston such a great town.”
Resident Laurie Beacham, who has attended several council meetings to speak on this issue, thanked the council for considering the resolution over the last few months and taking action to pass something, but expressed her disappointment that the council did not pass something stronger.
“At the end of the day, this really commits to no policy that can be enforced in any way,” she said. “Should a request come down from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at any time to partner in deportation, this resolution will not serve as concrete guidance. I hope the town does not find itself in that situation, but if it does, you might wish you passed something more meaningful.”
Reading the statement of another resident who could not attend Monday's meeting, Beacham said:
“The resolution, while clearly a step in the right direction, needs to have more teeth to it. What does it mean in a very practical sense? What does ‘dignified treatment of all people regardless of their immigration status’ specifically mean? Will Livingston police not cooperate with ICE? That’s a crucial question.”
According to Beacham, the resident also stated that the resolution as written only reaffirms what Livingston already is, rather than “situating it in the context of the push for Fair and Welcoming Communities with specific characteristics.”
Beacham thanked the mayor for his responsiveness and willingness to come out on the record as being in favor of taking action when residents began coming forward on this issue.
“We all met with a number of different people and the one thing that I think was great in this process was that you and members of your group came to speak with us on a number of different occasions,” said Councilman Michael Silverman. “On a number of different occasions, the five of us sat in closed session and had conversations about it so that we could come to an understanding among the five of us—because there was a number of different levels of comfort on this. I truly believe that we did the right job in hearing as many people as possible in this process.”