NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Ras Baraka and others today took aim at President Donald Trump and re-affirmed their support for undocumented immigrants as a nationwide deportation raid looms.
Trump said he would postpone the mass deportations for two weeks while he negotiates with Congress for stricter immigration policies. The raids were originally set to begin on Sunday, according to several national news organizations.
Federal immigration policy has become a contentious issue for local municipalities that have declared sanctuary status. Mayors from sanctuary cities say the federal government has put pressure on them by withholding funds after they made the declaration.
"We think that everybody in the City of Newark is a resident whether they're documented or undocumented,” Baraka said during a news conference on the steps of city hall. “We believe they should benefit from the services of our community.”
Other members from the NJ Urban Mayors Association joined Baraka today. Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau called the Trump administration’s slated raids “terroristic threats.” She declared her borough a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants in 2017.
“I consider it a terroristic threat,” she said. “I think this administration delivers terror every chance they get to make people feel in our communities unsafe. That is unacceptable.”
Jay Arena, who once ran against Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, began to heckle speakers during the news conference. He has asked city council to support a resolution that would denounce Essex County’s $49 million contract with the federal government that allows immigrant detainees to be housed at a county correctional facility in Newark.
“Tell Joe D his ICE jail’s gotta go,” Arena shouted.
City council has not yet passed such a measure, but Council President Mildred Crump has said she would consider it. Baraka has also penned an op-ed stating that Essex County’s relationship with federal government must end.
“You already know what my position is,” Baraka responded when asked if he would want to see the county’s contract to end. “We're here to push back against Donald Trump and his raids. You already know my position on the ICE jail.”
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos said having a detention center in Newark allows local families to be able to have more access to their loved ones who are detained. Ramos, who is also the Essex County Citizen Services director, said the jail has also undergone improvements since a 2018 visit from the federal government found unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
“Closing the Essex County program right now would probably push this facility to western Pennsylvania,” said Ramos after the press conference. He added: “Having a public government entity run one of these facilities, it opens it up to more transparency.”
ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha said Trump has "waged a campaign of terror against immigrants" since he began his presidency. He called for more statewide and local measures that would support undocumented immigrants.
“We must create protections statewide to ensure that all people - regardless of their immigration status - are treated equally in our state,” Sinha said. “That includes full funding for legal representation for people facing deportation, ending immigration detention and access to drivers licenses for all people…”
Baraka said undocumented immigrants who are facing possible deportation should reach out to the city or clergy for help. He said the city is working on getting out information and education to those who may be affected.