After President Trump’s stance on refugees outraged many here in New Jersey and across the country, today Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop addressed the deep anger by signing an aggressive executive order to make it a true “sanctuary city” for immigrants who illegally entered the country.
Fulop’s 39th order (this one is 10 pages ) since he became mayor in 2013, is expansive. It bars city cops from honoring immigration detainer requests from US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; thereby prohibiting federal immigration and border protection agents from accessing city facilities or property without a warrant. It also bestows such benefits as the city’s paid sick leave mandate on all residents regardless of immigration status and more.
Fulop is vying for the Democrat seat again in November in this largely foreign-born Democratic city. Though he didn’t mention Trump by name, he clearly criticized “today’s climate” and made veiled references to the president’s executive orders on illegal immigration and refugees.
“We won’t be bullied and we won’t be mistreated,” Fulop says during the City Hall ceremony —where he was flanked by local elected officials and immigrant and labor group representatives. “We’re going to stand by the values that are important to us.”
Fulop’s order could be the ire of the Trump administration, since on Jan. 25 the president issued an executive order threatening to cut off some federal funding to sanctuary cities. Gov. Chris Christie told Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly that he supports Trump on this issue.
“The fact is that those folks should be enforcing federal law,” Christie says. “The federal government has to give tools to the states to be able to help them have the enforcement of federal law. The Obama administration had no interest in that. I hope the Trump administration will and if they do, they will have a really willing partner in me.”
Twice before, both in 1996 and again last year (after Trump’s win) — the City Council passed resolutions calling Jersey City a sanctuary/safe haven for undocumented immigrants.
Those measures are largely ceremonial though, advocates told The Jersey Journal.
According to Johanna Calle, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice program coordinator, “The signed executive order is as aggressive a stance as a New Jersey city can take without tripping over federal or state laws.”
The order is “one of the strongest in the country,” says Chia-Chia Wang, organizer with American Friends Service Committee (a Newark-based immigrant rights group).
According to Fulop, he doesn’t think Trump’s threat to take away federal funding from sanctuary cities would be a legal move.
“I feel pretty comfortable that they’ll be met in court and met in court aggressively,” the mayor says.
Trump’s order doesn’t name specific cities or actions a city would have to take to be classified a sanctuary city in line for a loss of federal funds. Calle says cities that want to protect their immigrant population should act now.
“We can’t wait until we figure out what he’s doing,” she says.
In 2007, New Jersey’s attorney general issued a directive requiring all law enforcement officers making arrests for indictable crimes to inquire about an arrestee’s citizenship, nationality and immigrant status. Public safety director, James Shea and Fulop believe that directive is a guideline Jersey City doesn’t necessarily have to follow.
“They’re guidelines,” Fulop says. “They’re not law.”
Shea said it wouldn’t make sense for one set of guidelines to cover how every municipality in New Jersey operates.
A spokesman for the attorney general declined comment.
“As they have always done, members of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association will continue to do their very best to serve their community and protect residents, no matter what designation or label the politics of the day may give Jersey City,” says spokesman Steve Lenox.
About today’s order, a Greenville resident told the Jersey Journal she guesses Fulop feels like he has to do it, living in Hudson County and New Jersey.
“Maybe I don’t belong here anymore.