Are ‘sactuary cities’ for illegal immigrants in NJ a good idea?
By some estimates there are now more than half a million illegal immigrants living in so-called "sanctuary" towns and cities all over the Garden State.
What exactly is a Sanctuary city? It depends on who you ask.
Some define the term to mean cities that restrict police from questioning people solely about their immigration status. Others use the term to refer to towns and cities that will not collaborate with U.S. Immigration Enforcement officials.
Towns considered by some to be sanctuary cities include Newark, Jersey City, West New York, North Bergen, Union City, Trenton, Hightstown, Camden, Asbury Park and New Brunswick, but some local officials dispute the designation
An order by the state Attorney General seven years ago spells out when Jersey law enforcement officials should investigate someone's immigration status. After an individual has been arrested for a serious violation of state criminal law, immigration status should become an issue - because it's relevant to the individual's ties to the community and the likelihood he or she will appear in court, the AG wrote.
And when the state has reason to believe someone arrested may be in the country illegally, federal officials should be informed, according to the AG.
But the order recognizes strong relations with immigrant communities are also important so law enforcement can't ask about the immigration statuses of witnesses or victims without what is termed "good cause."
Chia-Chia Wang, the organizing and advocacy director for the American Friends Service Committee, a group that promotes peace and immigrant rights, says some New Jersey Counties have adopted policies to limit when immigration questions will be asked of those being held in County lockups. They include Camden, Union, Middlesex, Hudson and Ocean.
She believes having sanctuary cities in New Jersey is a good thing because "the current immigration pathway to green card or legalization is very, very limited."
She also stresses it's important for everyone in a community to be able to access to "essential services like emergency health care, fire department or police department services, things that a human being would absolutely need or a family would need."
Wang adds instead of denying essential services to undocumented immigrants we have to find a way to bring them out of the shadows.
"This would mean instead of saying that, or accusing a certain population that they don't do certain things, we have to find a way for them to pay taxes," she said.
Wang also said it's important to remember even if somebody is not paying federal income taxes, it does not mean they don't pay sales taxes.
"A lot of immigrants who don't have a social security number actually opt to pay federal taxes including social security and medicare," she said. "We really need to say how do we bring them out of the shadows, right, the current immigration law or system is broken, so how do we fix it?"
Below see a map of the state's sanctuary cities based on the often-cited list maintained by Steve Salvi of the Ohio Jobs & Justice PAC. But first: read up on what that list, or any other, should be taken with a big grain of salt.