Sanctuary city advocates in one state with a Trump friendly Republican governor are digging in their heels in the face of President Trump’s threat to cut off federal funding.
Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey introduced bills this week calling on the state to reimburse so-called sanctuary cities that lose federal funding. And on Wednesday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski introduced legislation designating New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” generally preventing law enforcement officers from initiating contact with immigration officials, and from using state resources for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws.
In addition, several towns that have significant immigrant populations have declared themselves sanctuaries, saying they will not reach out to immigration officials about illegal immigrants they arrest or provide a service to unless they are serious criminals or a national security threat.
“We are putting President Trump and his administration on notice,” said Wisniewski in written public announcement about his legislation. “New Jersey will not be a ‘willing partner’ to the unjustified and inhumane deportations of our neighbors and friends.”
New York and California also have moved toward declaring their states sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.
Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has issued executive orders and directives aimed at border security and tracking down and deporting undocumented people.
He directed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and publish a list of sanctuary communities. Although no strict definition of the term exists, it is generally used to describe communities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The New Jersey measures have little chance of passing, given GOP resistance and Gov. Chris Christie’s veto threat, said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University professor of political science.
“It’s more of a gesture to the immigrant community,” Baker told Fox News. “It’s a message to them that they would be protected against hypothetical actions by the federal government.”
In Maplewood, Mayor Victor DeLuca consulted with police administrators before crafting a sanctuary ordinance that became final at the end of January.
DeLuca said police officials said they did not want the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws.
“The police said ‘We don’t do it now,’” DeLuca told Fox News, “and there was a feeling on our part that wanted to make clear that there are distinctions between the role of the police department and the role of immigration officials.”
New Jersey has more than 500,000 illegal immigrants, according to estimates.
Republicans in the state legislature say they will not support sanctuary towns in any way. Christie, a Republican, says he will veto any legislation that would favor sanctuary cities.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement say sanctuary communities are violating the law.
“To have lawmakers in Trenton say ‘O.K., we’ll show the president, if they withhold funding, we’ll pay,’ is violating federal law,” said Ron Bass, founder of United Patriots of America, a New Jersey-based group that pushes for strict enforcement. “It’s like the state saying to sanctuary cities ‘You rob the bank, I’ll drive the [getaway] car.’”