SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution on Monday, Feb. 13, affirming the town’s commitment to equal treatment for all residents regardless of immigration status, which ultimately resulted in a vote to specifically use the term “sanctuary city.”
The resolution states that no South Orange official will condition or deny service based on immigration status, and the document also proclaims that the South Orange Police Department will neither enforce federal immigration laws, nor use funds or resources to police citizens based on ethnicity or race.
“We do have ability to proactively pursue ICE training at taxpayer expense,” said South Orange Village President Sheena Collum. “We will not support our police officers being deputized as federal immigration officers under any circumstance.”
Several of the board members, including Trustee Deborah Davis Ford, felt it was essential to address all concerns presented by the community. Davis Ford cited a young man who testified at the Legal and Personnel Committee meeting about the possibility of dangerous criminals being protected by sanctuary cities. The Board of Trustees stressed that sanctuary will not be extended to any person indicted based on state laws.
“Any person who commits a crime, regardless of who they are, they will be held to the law,” said Davis Ford.
SOMA Action representative Anita Gundanna presented the board of trustees with a petition signed by 394 Maplewood and South Orange residents in support of the sanctuary city resolution. John Paul Black, a South Orange resident, also used the public comment period to thank the trustees for their commitment to equality.
“Federal funding should not be a concern when discussing fundamental rights,” said Black. “You can’t place a dollar value on protecting the rights of innocent men and women.”
Collum cited an annual average of $631,000 received in federal grants, accumulating to $6.3 million in federal aid over 10 years. According to Collum, this could add about $140 per home to the existing average annual tax increase of $50. This would result in a total average of about $200 in tax increases for property owners annually.
Collum also reassured the approximately 100 attendees that the 10th amendment should shield any federal funding not directly related to immigration. In this event, grant funds such as the $1.5 million River Greenway project should not encounter additional hurdles based on the sanctuary city resolution.
Trustee Jeff DuBowy criticized the existing draft of the resolution for being a “feel-good statement to share our solidarity with other local communities.” He urged the committee to craft a resolution that had "real meaning," and shortly after DuBowy voted with other trustees to amend the resolution to use the term sanctuary city.
When the resolution was finally presented to the board, all trustees voted to confirm the existing resolution except for DuBowy who voted no, and Mark Rosner who was absent.
“The phrase sanctuary city is not in the resolution for Maplewood and personally I find it strange,” Collum remarked to applause. “South Orange is small in size, but large in heart.”