SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange Legal and Personnel Committee met on Monday, Feb. 6, to present a resolution ratifying South Orange as a sanctuary city.
Over 200 protestors rallied in Spiotta Park in South Orange before marching to the Baird Center to hear the ordinance. About 100 people were at the meeting, including members of local advocacy groups such as SOMA Action, SOMA Clergy, and the South Orange Maplewood Coalition on Race.
“No human is illegal, just undocumented,” said local immigration attorney Ian Grodman. “The hope here is to craft a resolution that provides the greatest security and comfort possible.”
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum thanked Grodman for his “instrumental role in drafting the resolution.” Grodman, who is a Maplewood resident and also penned a similar resolution there, said he hopes that this can serve as a model resolution for municipalities across the country.
“We were not [previously] avoiding action on the issue of ethnic vetting,” said Collum. “Instead we wanted decisive and definitive language reaffirming South Orange’s commitment to its values.”
Collum cautioned attendees that federal funding will be in jeopardy following ratification. She cited an annual average of $631,000 received in federal grants, accumulating to $6.3 million in federal aid over 10 years.
Some of the major conditions of the resolution included affirmation that no South Orange official will condition or deny service based on immigration status. The resolution also included 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.
“You’re all here because you care, and that couldn’t make me more proud as police chief,” said Chief Kyle Kroll. “No one should be afraid to report a crime just because of their immigration status.”
Two attendees who wish to remain anonymous privately voiced dissent for the resolution, but claimed they feared for their safety if they publicly debated the ordinance.
“I can’t go on the record out of fear for my family,” said one source. “My house would be vandalized or my family would get attacked if I spoke out.”
After a reading of the resolution, many protestors in favor of the resolution used the open comment period to commend the committee on their commitment to equality.
The resolution will be formally presented to the South Orange Board of Trustees at their monthly meeting on Monday, Jan. 13.