Letter to the editor: Sanctuary City

parsippany focus

parsippany focusDear Editor:

Last month, the Parsippany Township council passed a resolution objecting to Parsippany becoming a “sanctuary city,’’ which has not happened, and new state attorney general guidelines that prevent local law enforcement officers from acting outside of their jurisdiction and using department resources to enforce federal immigration law.

I am concerned that pushing to abolish these guidelines would endanger public safety. It could potentially enable officers to stop residents they suspect  are undocumented, and in other cases, release them to ICE for deportation proceedings when they aren’t suspected of serious crimes. Studies have shown crimes rises in towns where undocumented residents and residents with undocumented loved ones don’t report crimes for fear of deportation.

I am also concerned that the  resolution describes undocumented immigrants as “dangerous criminals” who are siphoning resources from citizens. It exploits and perpetuates fears that they are more violent and criminal than other groups.  Language like this fuels hostility against immigrants, many of whom are people of color, at a time when they are demonized by the Trump administration. In contrast, undocumented immigrants of European ancestry are seldom portrayed as a threat by our president or the media. Since Trump’s election, there has been a well-documented link between rhetoric that disparages immigrants of color — including many Muslims, Mexicans and those from Africa and Haiti — and hate crimes. Parsippany Police Chief Andrew Miller supports the attorney general guidelines.

Finally, I wonder if council members are fully aware of the impact that the policies they champion could have on families in Parsippany, a town with a large percentage of immigrant residents. I’m sure the vast majority are citizens, but those who aren’t are also a part of our community who contribute to Parsippany. Many pay income and property taxes but, unlike citizens, are barred from accessing benefits they fund as taxpayers.

Undocumented immigrants in Parsippany and beyond include people who have lived and worked here for many years and have American-born children. They include the friends and classmates of our non-immigrant children and grandchildren. They are young adults who came to the U.S. as children and grew up as Americans.

They are people given temporary protection status under U.S. policy after fleeing natural disasters and violence, who have lived here for decades, under a program renewed each year by both Republican and Democratic presidents. But they are now scheduled to be deported under the Trump administration’s new regulations.

They are green card holders who may have committed a minor offense 20 years and in the past would not have been a priority for deportation. They are citizens or legal residents who may have committed no offense at all but were mistakenly caught in the system and detained indefinitely.

If Parsippany officers enforce federal immigration laws, residents who’ve harmed no one are more likely to spend months in prison-like detention centers which have been documented to be filled with mold, rotten food, cruel solitary confinement measures and lack of access to health services.

Worst of all, these Parsippany residents – and immigrants passing through town —  could be separated from family members and sent back to countries they fled while seeking refuge.

For Parsippany to become complicit in this process is immoral and inhumane.

Carrie Stetler