By Michael Hill
Mayor Steve Fulop calls Jersey City — home to the Statue of Liberty — one of America’s most diverse cities and today sent a message to the get-tough-on-immigration Trump administration by re-affirming this a “sanctuary city.”
“We won’t going to be bullied, we’re not going to be pushed around, we’re not going to be dictated to,” Fulop said.
Twenty years ago, then Mayor Brett Schundler declared Jersey City as a sanctuary city, but now Fulop has put it in writing.
Fulop signed a 10-page executive order that codifies and directs the city’s 900 police officers and other departments not to use city resources to enforce federal immigration law.
Here’s what it means for police: “We don’t question anybody about their immigration status because we would never want anyone to be afraid to come to us for help or to be a witness,” said Jersey City Public Safety Director James Shea.
New Jersey has more than a dozen sanctuary cities and counties, despite a 2007 state attorney general directive. It states when state and local officers make an arrest for an indictable offense or drunk driving they “shall inquire about the arrestee’s citizenship, nationality and immigration status” and if the officers believe the arrestee is not here lawfully they “shall notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the arrest booking process.”
But, Fulop insists, “They’re guidelines, not law.”
Trump has threatened to strip sanctuary cities of some federal funding: “At long last, cracking down on sanctuary cities.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. We don’t believe that that legally can be done,” Fulop said.
Twenty-four-year-old Li Adorno came from Mexico 17 years ago. He’s a student at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City and in America on a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that has to be renewed every two years.
“We’re going in the right direction. Gives some protection, gives me a bit of ease that I don’t have to hide from the cops here,” he said.
Advocates applauded Fulop’s executive order.
“It’s a really strong policy. We’re really setting the tone for the state and nation. So this is great,” said Johanna Calle, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
Does she see this as real protection?
“There is no such thing as real protection when it comes to immigration, unfortunately, in terms of keeping immigration services out of cities. Federal agents can still do their job if that is what they want to do in cities,” she said.
What Jersey City’s sanctuary city executive order really means could well boil down to what the governor does and he says he’s a willing partner with the president to enforce immigration law.