Newark is much more than a sanctuary city. We are a sanctuary community. In a sanctuary city, the local government, especially local police, do not cooperate with the misguided and unconstitutional Trump administration policies of detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants.
Newark is a sanctuary community. Organizations, institutions, and ordinary citizens collaborate with the City to prevent the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Most importantly, we work together to make them feel welcome, demonstrate that they are valued members of our community and enable them to enjoy all of the wonderful opportunities that our city-in-transformation has to offer. Our local activists, traditional public schools, charter schools, businesses, colleges and universities, hospitals and clergy, along with city government and police, work tirelessly to protect our undocumented immigrants and integrate them into the fabric of our community.
City government created a Municipal Identification Program available to all Newark residents, regardless of immigration status. The ID has helped our most vulnerable community use the ID as a form of identification for city services, to open and operate bank accounts, gain permits to open up small businesses such as: ice cream carts, hot dog and flower stands, and access services at hospitals in Newark. Our excellent municipal health clinic provides a full range of medical services to undocumented individuals without regard to ability to pay. The City holds community meetings to provide information about immigrants’ rights and how to thwart Trump immigration policies.
The Newark Police Division, led by Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, does not cooperate with ICE, refusing to turn people over to ICE on detainer warrants not accompanied by an order signed by a judge. We take this stand despite threats from the Trump Department of Justice to take away our federal grants. At the same time, our police officers have developed close relationships with immigrant communities. This encourages undocumented residents to feel safe reporting crimes and providing tips about people plotting crimes.
As Mayor, I have spoken out against New Jersey counties contracting with ICE to use their jails as immigrant detention facilities and against the harsh conditions at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, the Essex County Detention Facility, and the Hudson County Jail. Essex and Hudson Counties have long histories of working with federal immigration authorities, and, in the age of Trump, that cooperation must end.
Rutgers University-Newark and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, located in Newark, employ admissions policies that don’t consider immigration status. They award scholarships to undocumented students. Both protect the privacy of all students and do not share personal information or educational records with ICE including immigration status. Their university security forces do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals on the basis of immigration status, and the Rutgers-Newark Child Advocacy and Immigration Rights Law Center fights to prevent people from being illegally detained by ICE.
Our Newark Public Schools, which are separate from city government, are sanctuaries for immigrant students. They refuse to share information that could disclose immigration status to ICE and refuse to allow ICE officials to come into their schools without an order signed by a judge. The Newark Schools also meet regularly with groups of parents to inform them of their immigration rights.
On numerous occasions, Newarkers over the past two years have demonstrated and held vigils in front of ICE headquarters on Broad Street protesting the illegal detention of undocumented individuals. The demonstrators represent a broad cross section of Newark: clergy from Baptist ministers to Archbishop Tobin to Imams; African Americans, Latinos, Portuguese, and Brazilians; activists, elected officials and students. Newark is united in support of our undocumented immigrant neighbors.
So, it was with astonishment that I read an article recently in a “progressive” publication titled “The silent deception of Newark’s ‘sanctuary city’ status” that accused our police of defying the city’s “sanctuary” status because two officers wrongly turned over an undocumented immigrant to ICE in violation of city policy. This incident, under police investigation, is the first time an immigrant with no criminal record has been turned over to ICE. That same article accuses Newark of “complicity” with ICE because the ICE detention facility is located in our city. This despite the fact that City government has no control over the county jail and that I have spoken out against the housing of ICE detainees in Newark.
Unfortunately, this is yet another pathetic example of how some so-called progressives viciously attack each other rather than organizing and uniting to fight the real enemy in Washington. Despite this attempt to divide us, Newark will not be deterred. We stand together and proudly as a sanctuary community!
Ras Baraka is the mayor of City of Newark. He's serving his second term.