By Kevin Coughlin
A photo making the rounds in Morristown’s Latino community over the last few days show local police standing guard while a Border Patrol agent frisks a spread-eagled man, in front of a Latino business on Sussex Avenue.
It’s scaring a lot of people. And it’s completely bogus, according to the mayor and police chief.
“This is being superimposed in a picture… as a result, this business is losing customers,” Mayor Tim Dougherty said at Tuesday’s council meeting, pronouncing such scare tactics “unacceptable.”
There are no Border Patrol vehicles in Morristown, said Police Chief Pete Demnitz, whose detectives determined the photo being texted and emailed among Hispanic residents has been digitally altered, containing superimposed elements. The photo’s origin is unknown, they said.
Video: Officials tell Latinos: Don’t fear this photo
Immigration advocates say fear has been running high since President Trump’s administration has called for more aggressive deportation of undocumented residents.
Town officials, clergy and members of law enforcement tried to ease concerns of 200 Latinos who gathered Sunday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, Dougherty said.
On Tuesday, Dougherty and Demnitz reiterated prior declarations that Morristown police will not participate in 287 (g), a federal program that deputizes police as immigration enforcement officers.
“There is no 287 (g) in Morristown, there will never be 287 (g) in Morristown, and the police chief has not put any directive out for them to implement any federal ICE issue here in Morristown,” said the Mayor, referring to Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] bureau.
“I will fight 287 (g), as I did seven or eight years ago,” Demnitz said. “We contact ICE when we have someone that is undocumented and commits a crime. That’s the Attorney General guidelines.”
The Mayor urged Latinos to trust police, and report crimes and anything else that makes them feel unsafe. That includes reporting anyone claiming to be from ICE who attempts to extort money from them, he said.
The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the Mayor’s office plan to shoot a video this week clarifying immigration questions. It will be shown in houses of worship across Morristown, and a town-wide forum will follow, said Dougherty, who strategized with clergy earlier in February.
Immigrant advocacy groups had asked the town council to declare Morristown a “Fair & Welcoming” community, but the council opted to await the outcome of clergy outreach efforts.
Slideshow photos show doctored image, and the elements that went into it.