Passaic’s ‘haven’ status hailed

17 09 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

 

By MEREDITH MANDELL

HERALD NEWS

 

PASSAIC — Immigration advocates Friday praised the passage by the City Council of a resolution that declares the city a “safe haven” for immigrants.

“I think this is very good, because Passaic is a city of immigrants,” Tamara Morales, vice president of Casa Puebla, a Mexican-American social activist group in Passaic, said in Spanish. “They have made the city better, businesses are growing, people are renting apartments, real estate has gone up, there’s more money circulating in the city and more construction.”

The resolution, approved Tuesday in a 6-0 vote, prohibits city officials from asking residents about their immigration status. Residents can get access, without fear of unnecessary interrogation, to all of the city’s services — including mental health and drug counseling, food vouchers for infant children and hospital emergency rooms.

The symbolic resolution comes in the wake of fears that a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment is rising in New Jersey.

Last month, state Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a directive instructing law enforcement personnel to inquire about the immigration status of individuals who are arrested on serious criminal charges. The decision came after the arrest of suspects in the killing of three college students in Newark. One was an illegal immigrant.

The city’s resolution is similar to the so-called “sanctuary” order adopted in Prospect Park earlier this year. Borough Mayor Mohamed Khairullah was the first in Passaic County to declare that all immigrants were entitled to borough services regardless of their status.

Norberto Curitomai, president of the Paterson-based Immigrant Rights Defense Committee of New Jersey, said he believes the measure will calm fears among many in the undocumented community, who are reluctant to deal with city officials, fearful about reporting a crime or a slumlord.

“They made it clear that the city’s services and assistance programs will be open, without import as to a person’s resident status,” he said.

None of the City Council members returned calls for comment Friday.

Mayor Samuel Rivera said Friday he was pleased the resolution was approved because immigrants “are human beings and they deserve the primary services.”

Last year, Rivera proposed opening a day-laborer center on Parker Avenue in front of The Home Depot. The center was seen as a compromise in the wake of resident complaints about the day laborers littering and loitering on the streets and public outcry over police ticketing the violators.

The day-laborer dispute in Passaic reflected heightening tensions in towns across New Jersey.

Earlier this year in Morristown, Mayor Donald Cresitello proposed deputizing local police officers as federal immigration agents. Cresitello applied without success to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security for admission into a program that trains police officers on handling immigration matters and gives them the authority to file civil immigration charges.

Some residents Friday said the Passaic resolution was long overdue because immigrants — whether legal or not — have boosted the city’s economy.

“If all the illegal immigrants were released tomorrow we would belly up and we would become another Camden,” said Jose “Alex” Ybarra, who contracts with Passaic as a translator in Municipal Court.

Other residents believed that illegals should not have access to city services because they are not paying taxes.

“They pull in these gorgeous vans and they come with the best of baby carriages,” said resident Willa Daniels, of the immigrants she sees waiting in line for the WIC program, a supplemental nutrition program for low-income mothers and their children.

“We are being overtaxed because these people are getting a benefit without working for it.”

 

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2 responses

17 09 2007
Chanie

Once again, we the taxpayers are paying for this. Did anyone ask us how we feel about it? No wonder our property taxes have gone up and are scheduled to go up again! Remember this at the next City Council election. Gary, Chaim, Daniel?

27 09 2007
Josh

Maybe if threre were fewer tax free properties in the 3rd ward area, taxes would be lower.. think about it, how about paying taxes like the rest of us low income people, we pray in our homes too, but we do not get tax breaks…

[Editor’s Note: Thank you for your uninformed and anti-semetic comment. The information presented by you is false. I challenge you to name one Jewish person in Passaic who’s private house is tax-exempt because they worship inside it.

I can think of 5 private houses in Passaic that are used as houses of worship and none of them are tax-exempt.

Good try, though.]

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