WEST ORANGE, NJ — In response to President Donald Trump’s signing of an Executive Order to target “Sanctuary Cities,” West Orange residents took to Facebook and other outlets on Wednesday to question Mayor Robert Parisi’s stance on declaring West Orange a Sanctuary City.
The new president’s Executive Order would remove federal funding from jurisdictions that protect undocumented residents, dubbed “Sanctuary Cities.” Despite a petition created by residents to “make West Orange a safe haven” following Trump’s election, Parisi clarified on Thursday that the Township of West Orange has no plans to declare the municipality a sanctuary city.
“West Orange has a long history of being respectful of all our residents, regardless of background, and we have celebrated our diversity from long before I became mayor,” he said. “We will continue to guarantee all rights, legal and human, of all our residents.”
More than 100 township residents signed the petition entitled “Make West Orange, NJ a Sanctuary City” in hopes to deliver it to Mayor Parisi. It stated the following:
“We are proposing that West Orange become a sanctuary city for those who feel threatened by the new administration and who fear repercussion, targeting and deportation.”
Shannon Gattens, the West Orange resident who created the petition, is also a spokeswoman for Essex Rising, which is described as “a group of concerned citizens united to hold our elected officials at the local, state and national level to represent all people and to combat any policies that seek to endanger the civil liberties of those groups targeted by the extremism of the Trump administration.”
"With President Trump ordering increased immigration enforcement and attempting to force states and localities to join him, our effort to make West Orange a fair and welcoming place for immigrants and refugees has become even more pressing," said Gattens. "We are calling on our local government to stand up for the rights of all of our friends and neighbors who call West Orange home by refusing to support detention and deportation of immigrants. Our community will not be divided or intimidated."
According to the petition, the term "Sanctuary City" is a name with no legal meaning given to a city in the United States that “follows certain procedures that shelters illegal immigrants.”
Long time West Orange resident Gabriel Sarni expressed strong feelings against West Orange being a sanctuary city. "I believe in vetting for the safety of our country," said Sarni. "There is nothing wrong with asking people to come in through the front door and expecting them to pay taxes. I've lived and paid taxes in the town of West Orange for 60 years and I have the right to feel safe where I live. If people are coming in illegally, I don't know who they are or why they are here and its just not right."
Some existing sanctuary cities, like Newark, have pledged to stand by the residents of their communities despite the Executive Order.
To read the Executive Order in its entirety, click HERE.