WESTFIELD, NJ — Six people who were arrested at a sit-in to support “dreamers” Feb. 6 at Congressman Leonard Lance’s Westfield office, including West Orange resident Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of B’nai Keshet in Montclair, pleaded “not guilty” to defiant trespassing Tuesday morning at Westfield Municipal Court.
Tepperman was arrested on Feb. 6 with Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz of Temple B'nai Arbraham in Livingston, Rev. Ann Ralosky and Rev. John Rogers of First Congregational Church in Montclair, Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit member Kristen Peck and Make the Road New Jersey youth leader Nedia Morsy after refusing to leave the office of Leonard Lance after the office closed, according to police.
(Morsy, who was not present due to a planned trip, had her plea entered for her by her attorney.)
Lance was not at his office the afternoon of the protest. According to his spokesperson, John Byers, the congressman had offered to meet with the protesters at a mutually convenient time, but was ignored.
After their pleas were entered and court adjourned, Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based organization that advocates for immigrants, held a press conference.
“The question is do you stand with the 800,000 young people and their families who have been living in this country and calling this country home?” Sara Cullinane, Esq. , director of Make the Road New Jersey, said. “Do you stand with the 86 percent of Americans who support the Dream Act and want them to stay, or do you stand with Donald Trump and his racist immigration agenda that was designed to separate families and criminalize our communities?”
Rabbi Tepperman, a leader in Faith in New Jersey (a network of faith leaders and faith communities) expressed gratitude for those who came to support the six Tuesday.
“It says in Exodus: ‘There shall be one law for the citizen among you and the stranger among you,’” Tepperman said. “It’s a really simple commandment that’s repeated 36 times that we need to protect the stranger, protect the non-citizen.”
Rev. Ralosky said that it was the first time she has been arrested, but that the small amount of anxiety she feels is nothing compared to what “dreamers” deal with every day.
“I beg Congressman Lance and every other in position of power to please take a stand and please remember that we belong to each other and follow the ethos of our country,” Ralosky said.
“I’m proud to stand up for the ‘dreamers,’” Dantowitz said. “This is what it means to be a faith leader—to stand up and take action.”
Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau was there, as well. Dansereau, who proclaimed Roselle a “sanctuary city,” said that her police force will not be deputized by ICE.
According to his spokesperson, Byers, Rep. Lance is a cosponsor of “clean” legislation concerning DACA recipients—H.R. 1468. He also supports bipartisan solutions to break the impasse over DACA, including the Problem Solvers’ proposal supported by a group of 48 lawmakers split evenly by party, according to Byers, and Lance and New Jersey Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer are both members of the Problem Solvers Caucus.