ELIZABETH, NJ –“Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” demonstrators chanted as they protested the attempt by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take an Elizabeth woman into custody in raid that took place last Friday, Feb. 16. They rallied in front of the Snyder Academy on Broad Street for a march that ended at City Hall.
The unidentified woman is a long-time Elizabeth business owner, according to Make the Road New Jersey, the event’s organizer. The attempted arrest, which occurred in front of her young children and was assisted by Elizabeth Police, was thwarted because “The woman knew her rights,” said Sara Cullinane, Make the Road’s executive director.
The purpose of the rally, according to Make the Road, is “to denounce ICE raids and call upon City of Elizabeth to enact a written policy stating Elizabeth Police Department and city agencies will not facilitate ICE Raids or enforcement actions and will not request immigration status of those seeking city services or interacting with city agencies.”
Due to the holiday, City Hall was closed, so city officials could not be reached for comment.
Speakers at the rally included some well-known voices. Linda Tober-Flores, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, spoke of her Finnish great grandmother who came to this country undocumented and worked as a servant. “I want to play it forward,” she said. “We owe these people to be welcoming and embracing.”
“We are standing that together we denounce Trump’s immigration whatever he is doing to the immigrants, we are not taking it,” said Woody Philippe, executive director of Jefferson Park Ministries. “We are standing together, strong and looking for justice for all immigrants.”
Said Archange Antoine, of Faith in New Jersey, “The reason we are here is because we care about the future of our town, our communities and our state. There are people out there who can’t be here today. They are in their houses, and they are afraid, afraid because our community continues to show them that we are not in solidarity with them. Every single day that a policy is not passed to stand with our people, we are showing our people that we don’t stand with them.”
He continued, “We are fighting not just to pass policy, but against a narrative that is trying to make us see our neighbors as aliens and others. Every one of our faith traditions from the Muslim faith to the Christian faith, any faith in the world says we are not others. We are brothers and sisters.”
A group of organizers including Make the Road, American Friends Service Committee, Faith in New Jersey, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, SEIU 32BJ, Wind of the Spirit, and Working Families Alliance of New Jersey are planning a Day of Action, Thursday, Feb. 23. There will be a rally at the Elizabeth Detention Center, 625 Evans St., at 11 a.m. A second rally will take place at the office of Congressman Leonard Lance, 425 North Avenue East in Westfield at 1:30 p.m.