Local Leaders Take Up Immigration

As President Obama’s term enters the twilight, national immigration policy changes  are on the minds of local leaders of communities with high foreign-born populations. With President Trump set to enter the White House in just a couple of weeks, cities and towns across the nation with traditionally liberal policies toward immigrants are wrangling with the potential fallout of the new, more conservative administration.

Maplewood, N.J., for instance, is a community where more than 20 percent of residents are foreign born. Late last year, community leaders began weighing the issue of adoption of so-called sanctuary city status. In essence, the status calls for the expenditure of no local resources to track down, locate and assist with the removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca and the newly sworn in Committeeman Frank McGhee have already gone on record as strong opponents to Trump policies espoused during the president-elect’s campaign.

“Our community will continue to be welcoming and open, embracing individuals of diverse racial, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds and different ages and sexual orientation,” Mayor DeLuca told attendees at the township’s annual Reorganization Meeting just after the first of the year. “We will not provision the Township services or benefits on matters related to citizenship or immigration status. And we will not take any action to profile or register individuals or groups based on religion, race, ethnicity, national origin or immigration status.”

While Committeeman Frank McGhee supports the designation, he also expressed reservations around the city adopting politically-reactionary policies. “I think we should make a decision for the right reasons and not for the wrong reasons, regardless of our president-elect and what he and his administration represent,” McGhee told elected colleagues late last year, according to EssexNewsDaily.com.

But others in Maplewood are more reserved about adopting sanctuary city status. Committeewoman India Larrier, for instance, argued the township’s actions are more significant than a formal sanctuary status. “It’s more the policies that we put in place than the designation,” she said.

Along these lines, Larrier suggested Maplewood adopt “welcoming city” status. With this, the township shifts focus away from not helping federal immigration officials and instead focuses on fostering mutual respect and cooperation among all Maplewood residents.