Mayor's office says New Brunswick is not a "sanctuary city"
Major urban centers across America have vowed to defy the administration of President Donald J. Trump and remain “sanctuaries” for their undocumented residents. A city official said New Brunswick is not one of those cities.
In an email to The Daily Targum, Jennifer Bradshaw, the city’s public information officer, said New Brunswick is not a “sanctuary city” and that its police department follows policies set by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, the Office of the Attorney General and the federal government with regards to investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Despite this, she said the city’s administration recognizes that New Brunswick is “largely built on the contributions of generations of immigrants.” According to the United States Census Bureau, 38.3 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born.
“For more than 25 years, it has been the practice of this administration to welcome and accept all residents of the city of New Brunswick as they are,” New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill said in a statement sent by Bradshaw. “We have no intention to put an end to that practice, regardless of any change in the political climate.”
The term "sanctuary city" is a broad label used by critics, and some supporters, to describe municipalities that have policies in place that limit cooperation with federal agencies as it pertains to detaining undocumented immigrants. The term has no legal definition.
New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston are all among the cities which limit their involvement in federal immigration enforcement, and each of their leaders has sworn to maintain these policies. New Jersey’s largest cities, Newark and Jersey City, have also pledged to assist their undocumented residents.
Supporters of these policies, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have said they make cities safer because undocumented residents are more likely to report crimes when local police do not participate in immigration enforcement.
Members of the current presidential administration, as well as other opponents of the local jurisdictions, have made claims that sanctuary cities violate federal law and create influxes of crime.
Along with building a wall on the southern border, repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection for DREAMers and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, Trump vowed to cut federal funds for sanctuary cities during the campaign trail.
On Jan. 25, he kept good on his promise and issued an executive order to block federal funding to these cities if they continued to limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the executive order reads. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
The order states that the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security will ensure that “sanctuary jurisdictions” do not receive federal grants.
It also assigns the secretary of homeland security to compile a weekly report of “criminal actions committed by aliens” in the municipalities that limit their involvement in federal immigration enforcement.
As New Brunswick is not a "sanctuary city," it is unlikely that Trump's order will immediately affect funding for the city. In 2016, the city received millions in state and federal funds.
New Brunswick’s policy differs from the one at Rutgers University, which has three campuses located within the city’s limits. University President Robert L. Barchi declared Rutgers—New Brunswick a “safe haven” for undocumented students in December and said their privacy would be protected by his administration.
Last year, Barchi said Rutgers would cooperate with legal requests, like court orders, should they be used.
Some members of the city’s large immigrant population, like Elizabeth Lara, 32, said they did not know whether New Brunswick was a sanctuary city, but that they were frightened anyway.
Lara, a native of Mexico, works in a store in Downtown New Brunswick that sells primarily Colombian clothing and that is owned by a Muslim man. Since Nov. 8, Lara said she has noticed what she called an “extraordinary change” in the city.
She said that because of the combination of Trump’s ascent to the White House and what she said has been a large increase of police presence in New Brunswick, immigrants like herself have been more reluctant to leave their homes to walk or drive around the city.
“My common sense tells me that the police have no right to stop me and ask me for my immigration status if I don’t commit an infraction or do something bad,” she said. “But, yes, I’m still scared because of the uncertainty.”
Since she arrived in the city from Mexico in 2002, she said New Brunswick’s immigrant community has seen rapid growth. She said the city has been for the most part accommodating to her community, but that more can be done to quell the apprehension that she said is conspicuous.
But while she is fearful, she said she has found solace in her Christian faith and in witnessing actions like the march in support of immigrants by Rutgers students in November of last year. She saw the march proceed through Downtown New Brunswick and found it “inspiring” to see young people fight for her and her 8-year-old daughter.
“It was a big show of support for our community,” she said.
Pascual Lopez, 37, an undocumented city resident, has lived in New Brunswick since he left Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1998. He is a cook at a diner and said he has worked at seven different kitchens in the city, alongside immigrants from Bangladesh, Italy, Greece, Turkey and many Latin American countries.
Lopez said he understands why Trump wants to crack down on immigrants who are committing crimes like drug trafficking, but noted that most, like himself, come here to do “honest work” and to “contribute to this country.”
The cook said he would like to live the rest of life in America to see his 7-year-old daughter attend a university like Rutgers and if possible, to fulfill his personal dream of going to culinary school.
“I would be willing to pay $10,000 to be able to stay and do that,” he said.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloreports.