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South Orange Residents Stand United to Urge Sanctuary Status and Stand with Immigrant and Muslim Communities

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Local residents and neighbors from South Orange and surrounding communities will gather on Monday, February 6, at 5 p.m. to rally and march in solidarity with immigrant and Muslim communities and to urge the South Orange Board of Trustees to pass a resolution making South Orange a SANCTUARY CITY.

Organized by the newly formed SOMA Action (www.SOMAaction.org), the rally will take place in downtown South Orange at Spiotta Park. Featured speakers include immigrant and Muslim community members Kambiz Roghanchi, Nureed Saeed, Ashraf Latif, and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of Race, History, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Additional speakers include author/journalist Krystal Sital, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, and Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca. Following the rally, community members will march to the Baird Center at 5 Mead Street, South Orange, where they will attend a meeting of the South Orange Board of Trustees’ Legal and Personnel Committee. Community members plan to urge elected officials to adopt a resolution declaring South Orange a SANCTUARY CITY.

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SOMA Action organized the rally and march largely in response to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and Islamaphobic policies and orders. Trump’s plan includes a threat to deport millions of immigrants and cancellation of DACA, a program that provides undocumented youth who entered this country at a young age with work permits and protection from deportation. Executive orders now ban many immigrants, including refugees, from travelling to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim nations.

Additionally, the federal government threatened to pull out of NAFTA, which leaves numerous community members here on TN visas unsure of whether they will be able to renew them. These actions and statements combine to create a climate of fear in which the forces of hatred, ignorance, and Islamophobia gain ground.

Rally co-organizer, 2nd generation American, and South Orange resident, Anita Gundanna notes that “Immigrants, especially those who are Muslim and those who are undocumented, are currently under attack. We can help ensure the safety and security of our immigrant communities by making a strong statement at a local level. It is time to declare our cities, towns and villages sanctuaries of safety for all.” SOMA Action co-founder Michael Paris adds, “Our local government and police force should not do the work of carrying out immoral and unconstitutional federal policies. State and local governments may not be commandeered by federal agencies for unlawful purposes.”

Gundanna says, “We must stand in solidarity with our immigrant communities - both documented and undocumented - and urge the South Orange Board of Trustees to declare the Township of South Orange Village, New Jersey a SANCTUARY CITY. We encourage our Village leadership to commit to doing everything in their power to create and maintain sanctuary status, and protect our residents, both documented and undocumented.”

SOMA Action salutes the mayors of cities like Newark, Maplewood, East Orange, Jersey City, Princeton, New York City, and hundreds more who have been quick to stand in solidarity with their immigrant communities and pass similar local legislation. Now is the time for South Orange to stand up. It is clear that the quality of life for all is improved, and not harmed, by Sanctuary City status. See: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2017/01/26/297 366/the-effects-of-sanctuary-policies-on-crime-and-the-economy/

SOMA Action recommends strong and clear language as part of a Sanctuary City resolution that restricts local police from becoming arms of federal immigration enforcement and declares in no uncertain terms that IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE. Additionally, a resolution should clearly state that no benefit or service (including but not limited to the use of parks, libraries, and other recreational facilities) will ever be denied on the basis of citizenship status, immigration status, race, religion, or national origin. Without these protections, immigrants are left vulnerable to racial profiling, detention and deportation. Law enforcement itself is grossly impeded when persons are afraid to turn to their government for help.

ABOUT SOMA Action. SOMA Action [www.SOMAaction.org] is a group of friends and neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood who share an interest in resistance to many Trump Administration policies and the broader rightwing agenda for the United States. We have grown quickly to over 600. We are committed to working together at a local level to mobilize rapidly against the threats that the Trump administration poses to our democracy and to the rule of law. 

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