NEWARK — Mayor Ras Baraka is defending his city's "sanctuary" policies toward immigrants living in the country illegally, saying Newark does not protect "dangerous criminals."

Baraka's statement comes after the Trump administration announced tactical border patrol units would be dispatched to "sanctuary" cities across the country, including Newark, to assist ICE agents with immigration enforcement. Baraka said that the use of the units will undermine community trust.

"It will recall painful images of the last time federal troops patrolled our town," he said.

Newark's policies offer unauthorized immigrants "the dignity of recognition" with ID cards allowing them to work, open a bank account and get building permits to "help build their community, all hallmarks of the American dream," he said.

Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said additional forces are needed because people without legal authorization to be in the country are being released from local jails in sanctuary cities and counties before his agents can take them into custody.

ICE then has to make “at-large arrests” of these immigrants, Albence said in a statement announcing the move.

Baraka said language used by U.S. Attorney William Barr about immigration policy in Newark is "divisive" and "provokes fear and incites hatred."

He denied Barr's allegation made during an address on Feb. 10 to the the National Sheriff’s Association that sanctuary policies like Newark's put "the interest of criminal aliens before those of law abiding citizens."

Barr said sanctuary policies "thwart the ability of federal officers to take custody of these criminals and thereby help them escape back into the community. They often proudly brand their jurisdictions as 'sanctuaries' and package their obstructive policies in idealistic and misleading rhetoric about 'protecting the immigrant community."

Baraka, in his own statement, said "there is absolutely no sanctuary in this city for dangerous criminals for that would be a betrayal of my personal values and the promise I made to all residents to keep Newark a safer city by building trust in our police,"

“We vigorously prosecute those undocumented people arrested for a multitude of violent, assaultive and exploitive crimes, including domestic violence, and notify federal immigration officials," Baraka wrote.

 

He defended an executive order he issued nearly three years ago, titled "Newark: A Fair and Welcoming City" as a way to "protect undocumented people from aggressive government intervention in their lives."

The directive, signed in 2017, said the city won't help ICE or other immigration entities "unless those requests come through valid judicial warrants." City employees, including police officers, will also be directed to not ask about a person's immigration status unless directed to do so by state or federal law, or a court order. The 16-point order also requires the city to publish information about detailer requests it has received from ICE, and guarantees essential services be made available regardless of immigration status.

The policy helps build trust with law enforcement, Baraka has said.

"Our municipal agencies will not function as immigrant slave catchers," he said in 2017. "They will provide effective, efficient, professional, and compassionate services to our residents. Our housing, health, and other code enforcement officers will not act as inquisitors or secret policemen. They will ensure the safety of our residents."

"This population is prey for criminals and we want them to feel safe and comfortable in the care of our police," Baraka said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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