Education

Passaic County: Fair and Welcoming

Freeholder Assad Akhter Credits: Passaic County
Freeholder John Bartlett, Esq. Credits: Passaic County

PATERSON, NJ – As lawmakers in Washington, D.C. continue to consider immigration reform measures, the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders is taking steps to make sure that immigrants know they are welcome within the borders of Passaic County.

Referring specifically to President Trump’s recent repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and other executive orders that target immigrants, the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously passed a Fair and Welcoming Policy during its Sept. 26 meeting. 

This policy, the first of its kind to be enacted in New Jersey, prohibits any county employee or agency from requesting verification of citizenship as well as any increased scrutiny or conditioning of services based on immigration status. The policy applies to all Passaic County residents unless they are suspected of or have a court order for a serious crime.

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“Passaic County is extremely diverse, with different cultures, ethnicities and languages throughout our community,” said Freeholder Assad Akhter. “Our diversity is what makes us strong, and we will not be intimidated by broken policies designed to instill fear in our neighbors.”
 
The policy specifically prohibits requesting information about citizenship, bias-based profiling or withholding services based on immigration status.  The county will also begin accepting forms of ID other than a driver’s license, unless otherwise prohibited by Federal or State law, regulation, directive or court order.

According to Dr. Steven Rose, President, Passaic County College, students have informed him personally that they are withdrawing from their college education due to a fear of becoming targets of immigration officials. 

Testimony given by Dr. Rose earlier this month helped give rise to this policy because these fears are “having a negative impact on Passaic County,” stated Freeholder John Bartlett.“Over 1,000 young adults in Passaic County have withdrawn from their college education, and expressed that it is because of fear.”

Kathleen Long, Director of Development, Oasis, a non-profit social service agency in Paterson, welcomed the Freeholder’s recognition of the value immigrants have to the community saying that,  “our immigrant students find hope and a path to success amidst larger fears of unlawful profiling, unnecessary investigation, and unfair treatment.” With the policy acting to alleviate these fears “they will be relieved to know that they can take advantage of County services, including access to Passaic County Community College for further education” she concluded.
 
Calling the policy “a step in the right direction”, Christian Estevez, President, Latino Action Network, said that it is “less than comprehensive.” In addition to the actions taken by the Freeholders, Estevez said his organization, which counts hundreds of Paterson residents as members, would like to additionally see a stop to the county’s compliance with the federal government’s 24-hour detainer request at the county jail.

“This policy re-affirms anti-discrimination policies and upholds equal protection under the law,” stated Akhter. “It is the right thing to do.”

 

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