Morris Township committee rejects ‘Fair and Welcoming’ status, after animated discussion

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By Ally Tobler

After hearing impassioned arguments on both sides, the Morris Township Committee this week rejected requests to declare the Township a “Fair and Welcoming Community.”

Neighboring Morristown is exploring whether to join municipalities such as Madison and Maplewood, which have adopted such resolutions partly to reassure undocumented immigrants who fear arrest in the wake of President Trump’s executive orders.

“Words matter in this world. Specifically since November, I myself have felt more unsafe in the world,”  Township resident Elizabeth Vinci-Sisti told the committee on Wednesday.

“It’s important to me that as my daughter grows up and goes into school, that her friends are not discriminated against, that her friends feels safe, that she herself feels safe,”  she said.

Peter Gallerstein, a board member of the Morris School District, echoed that sentiment.

“We do face a battle for the very lesson which we teach our children in school everyday,” said Gallerstein, a medical doctor. “The need to respect themselves and others regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexuality, national origin, disability or any difference that may be present.”

The Rev. Alison Miller, senior minister of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, and Rabbi Ellie Miller (no relation) of Morristown’s Temple B’nai Or, also spoke. The rabbi mentioned recent anti-Semitic acts at the Frelinghuysen Middle School.

“It was a member of my congregation who found the first swastika in the boy’s bathroom,” she said. “Jews know what it’s like to live in hostile communities… and Jewish tradition demands of us concern for all members of the community.”

‘SOVEREIGNTY…AND SOCIALISM’

Some residents viewed the matter differently.

“This issue is driven, in my opinion, by emotion and not reason. It’s driven by political correctness, and not common sense,” said Phil Del Giudice, noting his ancestors came to America lawfully.

To enter otherwise, he said, is “an outright nullification and disobeying of the laws of our country.”

Another resident, George Moken, equated Sanctuary with Socialism.

“Welcoming. Sanctuary. Safe. These are all nice sounding words. But what do they all really mean? They mean multiculturalism. Which equates to segregation, which destroys our sovereignty in favor of globalism,” Moken said.

“These terms sound nice,” he added. “But so did the Socialist healthcare known as the Affordable Care Act, which resulted in higher premiums, higher deductibles, loss of doctors and poor healthcare.”

WATCH VIDEO OF THE MEETING

Courtesy of the Friends of Televised Access in Morris Township

Supporters of Fair and Welcoming policies “are playing on people’s emotions and that is not what this is about,” said resident Julie Ferdenzi.

It’s a question of law, not compassion, she said.

“People have forgotten that there’s a difference in the definition of legal and illegal,” she said. “So everyone who is coming to this town, county, state and country legally, everyone welcomes.”

Committeewoman Louise Johnson, who opposes such resolutions, said,  “You can’t legislate what’s in the human heart and if we feel bullied or unsafe or discriminated against, we have to all examine our hearts and consciences.”

BAD BUSINESS?

Morris County Sheriff James Gannon has spoken against such resolutions, asserting it’s “bad business” to ignore federal laws.  Morristown Police Chief Pete Demnitz has said his bureau will follow state Attorney General guidelines–but it won’t participate in a federal program that deputizes cops as immigration officers.

Without Fair and Welcoming status, advocates contend, undocumented residents may feel afraid to report crimes or testify as witnesses, at a time when immigration agents are ramping up arrests.   

The Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court has asked federal officials to stop arresting undocumented immigrants at New Jersey courthouses.

State guidelines say police may inquire about immigration status only if someone is arrested for an indictable offense, or for drunk driving. 

“We’ve been named the sixth safest community in Morris County, the 18th safest in the state of New Jersey and I think that that is because we have such a fantastic, professional police department,” said Mayor Bruce Sisler.

“Our children should not be afraid, their parents should not be afraid and we should tell them that,” he said.

Ally Tobler, a 2016 Morristown High School graduate, is studying journalism and marketing at the University of Maryland.

 

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Compliance and Adherence to Laws and less personalized emotion is enables strength and standards. Enough with the liberal garb already. Its a completely destructive mentality that positions us to become what everyone APPEARS to FLEE. WAke Up.
    The only people ” allowed” to voice themselves without backlash and attacks are the liberals, the law breakers and excuse makers. If a conservative expresses their stance within this volatile climate, one is abused on par with days of stoning an outcast. Liberals lack restraint and acuity in the season of logic and reason. THE CONSERVATIVE VOICE IS STRONG AS WELL.

  2. Mr. Winer’s “revelation” that I was Mayor and a Twp Committee member is of course true, but my answer is “So What?”. I represented the law abiding citizens of Morris Township. the people here illegally are neither law-abiding nor citizens. That’s why I called them “invaders”. If I cared to be politically correct I could have said “trespassers”, but it comes out the same. Those who want our borders to be open to everyone should campaign to change the immigration laws; then they’ll find out what a tiny minority they are.

  3. Compassion and support of others should be motivating forces in ALL our decision making. In the long run it will bring us to a place of growth and liberty for all. Harriet Grose

  4. This town was started by pioneers who came here for a better life and were willing to work hard to do so…let’s give grace to those that share that value and a free bus ride two feet over the border to the rest.
    What I mean by that is, our laws need to match a sense of fairness and credit those who are contributing and deny those that are not/are criminals. We need more paths to citizenship for the good people already here and stricter laws for those who are breaking the law. Just being here shouldn’t be a crime…many get caught being here and become accidentally illegal, it’s easy to find this happening to very good people, students, visitors, those in our military, workers, parents. The process to becoming a citizen is not easy or cheap for many and can take more time than the process allows. I’d like to see the citizenship process more inclusive and selective before we talk about using our tax dollars in such an expensive and time consuming witch hunt.

  5. I want to echo the second comment by Will who said that the committee should have given more time to weigh and consider the issue, given the amount of passion and concern it engenders in our community.

  6. The Hallmark story milieu being cast to overshadow the simple reality of illegal and blatantly defiant intentions has met its threshold of tolerance. People have become gassed up on their own delusional sauce. The white shaming is on the uptick, on the heels of all other erosive broad american values. Time to return to the simple grace of knowing your place. Their is an American Pride that now more than ever is being challenged and while the majority have sat back leaving the battles to government, in a blink we have been hosed. In god we trust off currency, no pledge of allegience, rainbow flags flying off churches, a complete dissolution of family structure and values replaced by the an anything goes failure as the norm. America can be and IS welcomibg to all. The people incading botders with a resentment and garred toward american culture, jealousy of a perceived priveledge and tge rest has gone way off the deep end. Reel it in FAST. Learn english and adjoin our culture with a peace,, not a resentful ugly tirade of attitude and divisive racism . If you arent from here thats not anyones fault. Your cultural perception needs an overhaul along with some birth control guidance so you arent a generational parasite on the system. Go american or go home and be happy. Check the attitude at the border. Hunter college now teaches white abolition course..we have hit the dark horse. Time to emerge from the respectful right wong corners and preserve OUR culture. Thanks. Leave the white shaming at the border. Repeating ugly history isnt doing you people good. Give the next generation a positive loving mentality instead of acting like a binch of freaks creating divide. Red White and Blue baby . Or stay home. God Bless America.

  7. FYI…Rick Watson is a former Mayor of Morris Township and served numerous terms on the Morris Township Committee. Invaders? Seriously?

  8. This whole discussion about “fair and welcoming” confuses two different things: Of course we should be welcoming to people of all nationalities, races, religions, genders, etc. – as long as they’re here legally. As for those not here legally, we need to drop the euphemism “undocumented” and call them what they are -invaders. I hope the Morris Twp. Committee sticks to its law-abiding stance, and even finds a way to say loudly and publicly that the invaders are definitely not welcome and that we’ll co-operate with any agency trying to deport them.

    It’s also time for clear-thinking conservative people to respond, loudly and daily, in this medium and others, to the newly loud and strident “activism” of the left.

  9. As a Township resident for most of my life, I’m writing to say I’m disappointed in the Committee’s decision. With regard to ‘undocumented’ persons, as someone posted above, it is much more difficult to ‘go through the process’ of gaining legal entry into the U.S. It is no longer a matter of waiting in line and filling out a few documents. My concern is for those who came here out of fear for their lives, who, having gained access, are working hard, raising their children with integrity and good values, and contributing to the greater good. I’ll continue to be as positive and welcoming as I personally can be. Meanwhile, my faith in local government is more than a bit tarnished.

  10. As a whole, we are tired of the constant erosion of the representation of all things American, the english language, the respect for the soil in which all seem to desore over there own, YET the disrespect for american culture along with attitude problems and a constant effort to whine about discrimation is boring. No other country do you go and expect them to change their language, remove the flag, remove there pledges etc . We are done with it. The behavior of the other races are creating their own divisive attitudes. Learn english, resoect our culture and go about your business with a peace and calm. Instead of marching and yelling like a bunch of irritating people. No ody forced you here GO back to where you have so much pride for OR respect the land you seek amd keep quiet with the constant bs already. White people arent the enemy nor anyone else. It starts to appear that white Shaming is the new accepted slander. Its enough.

  11. I cannot believe that the town council refuses to bestow upon us all of these enviable benefits by refusing to declare the town as fair and welcoming. But why stop there? There are so many other benefits we could be enjoying if the council would just act. To start with I suggest that they also declare the Township “the healthiest town in America”; “a crime free community”; “the best weather in the country”; and “the longest life span of residents in America”. Utopia can be achieved if they would just declare it and make it so. If not, I’m moving to Madison ASAP where I am assured to be welcomed with open arms.

  12. If we are a Fair and Welcoming Community the why not celebrate such a claim? I’m puzzled by such a negative reaction to a positive and comprehensive resolution.

  13. The U VISA program is GROSSLY abused and it is a well known reality within the undocumented community. Some seek to purposely victimize one another, file a police report and claim the victim status. They then will seek to file UVISA certification as a victim of a qualifying crime. Many of the so called crimes are dismissed upon disposition or reduced to unqualifying “crimes”. It is quite a scam. Without a strict policy in place by a police department-to wait until final disposition in court PRIOR to any review For certification- it is an abused strategy. once again, the poor choices of some ruin it for others. An agency cannot willfully turn a blind eye to established pattern of scams OR they choose to break rather then uphold the law. This includes a willful ignorance to a person presenting many different names.. one for when arrested, another when being a victim. A pattern would show its not a mistake NOR coincidence. ***

  14. As one advocating for the adoption of the Fair and Welcoming Resolution, I was deeply disappointed that the Committee decided against it.
    A Fair and Welcoming Resolution proposes that our Community have strong anti-discrimination policies and privacy protections for all vulnerable groups- races, creeds, religions, sexualities, genders, disabilities, regardless of nation of origin, immigration status, marital status, veteran status or skin tone.
    A hospitable community rejects hatred, intolerance and bullying of any kind.
    In a fair community, its services are available to all, regardless of immigration status, marital or veteran status, nation of origin or skin tone.
    A responsible and safe community where local law enforcement serves and protects the community and does not use local funds to enforce federal immigration law.
    10 people spoke about concerns for the community’s well-being and safety as elements in society have recently felt emboldened to use racial and sexual slurs, harassing statements or actions, shouts to “go back to your country”, hate symbols and to make people feel threatened.
    Stories were told of finding swastika’s painted in a school bathroom, of fear of publicly wearing a religious symbol , of fear to be in a public place as a person of color, of shouts of “how will your mother pay for the wall?” to a naturalized citizen’ s child, of taking children from a public school to a private school due to bullying in the community, of diverse residents who have lived happily for many years in Morris Township who now are feeling an ambiguity from their community.
    So how did this discussion get hijacked to be only about illegal undocumented immigrants?
    Those who spoke against Fair and Welcoming as well as the Committee itself referenced only one of the 11 or more legally protected groups proposed in a Fair and Welcoming statement; illegal undocumented immigrants and that the Rule of Law needs to be followed.
    The Committee spoke of having taken oaths to uphold the Constitution and that they follow the Rule of Law . A portion of NJ Attorney General Directive on policing guidelines brought to the meeting and supported by the Welcoming advocates was read by a committee person.
    It stated that an arrest for an indictable crime or driving while intoxicated. triggers an inquiry as to citizenship, nationality and immigration status. That federal officials then will be informed if the arrestee is undocumented unless the local prosecutor determines otherwise.
    The Mayor said no one should be afraid, not children or adults unless they commit serious crime.
    However, the Committee did not address equally important legal language in the same directive which reads that local police forces seek the cooperation of, and positive relationships with all the members of the community. NJ local police forces are prohibited from engaging in racially influenced policing. Public safety suffers if individuals believe that they cannot come forward to report a crime or cooperate with law enforcement. Residents should not be discouraged from approaching police officers out of fear on inquiry into their immigration status.
    At the same time we have many people in Morris Township who are immigrants, living here legally. They may be people of color, or have accents, may wear articles of clothing from their culture or religion, which have been subject to harassment.
    We also have residents who are LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, Asian, People of Color , various other religions or creeds, women, veterans, and disabled who are finding themselves feeling marginalized.
    Our desirability ratings may be eroding already.
    There is real need for a public dialogue in Morris Township to promote understanding in the community of the norms, values, and policies that our Township supports for all of its residents to optimally live together and thrive.
    We ask the Township Committee to reconsider their summary dismissal of the issue.

  15. Congratulations to the Morris Township committee, who once again showed that they represent most sensible people. No one should feel unsafe if they’re here legally. Congress should act quickly to deny all sorts of funding to cities who encourage law-breakers.

  16. Correction, I am quite interested in the rights of ALL people, and fully support a program which encourages illegals to feel welcomed and interact in the communities which they reside comfortably. My concern would be the same as it is for citizens who do not follow lawful practices, that there is an accountability for those individuals. I am pro policy for all. not selective. It is an important safety process that includes all people whether lawful citizen or not, to be accommodated with a feeling of safety and security. All lives matter. It may be hard to convey that in text on these forums, that is the heart of the message .

  17. They should reject it. There is nothing to research. FOCUS on risk mitigation, crime, safety and reality of policy.
    UNDOCUMENTED ILLEGALS need to be fingerprinted and identified before assimilating into school systems, employment, housing contracts. That is how the rest of the citizens in our society operate. Not careening about with the flexibility to have multiple identities, false licenses and circumvent laws. I personally am not interested in the rights of those who have potential to be a ghost and choose that if a program is offered to register yourself. When you allow an ability for people who are desperate, law breaking and unaccounted for.. lets get back to basics here.. YOU THEN HAVE A SAFETY CONCERN FOR ALL. Stop focusing on the perfect outlook and stare at the gaping potential and risk associated with being unable to identify and locate people. ITS SCARY. similar to the way we abuse our own veterans by not putting them first, we are attempting to water down the reality again and put citizens last. WE COME FIRST. THERES ARE PROCESS. FOLLOW IT. THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE SUED FOR EVERY LIABLE ACT COMMITTED BY AN UNDOCUMENTED OFFENDER IF THEY ARE WILLING TO ALLOW REPEAT DRUNK DRIVING, SEX OFFENDERS AND WHATEVER ELSE GO POTENTIALLY. we all have our feelings, however the LAW is black and white. I know people want to make that gray as well and continue toward an anything goes puddle of nonsense. Sorry!

  18. Some fail to understand that many illegals have no choice but to leave their homelands for a place where they hope to survive and become contributing citizens in their adopted new home. The current conditions cause many innocent children to live in fear and prevents their parents from taking advantage of opportunities to change their status. This helps no one and deportation only makes things worse.

  19. Common Sense

    According to Mayor Bruce Sisler, “We’ve been named the sixth safest community in Morris County, the 18th safest in the state of New Jersey… ”

    So without new efforts to target law abiding, hard working undocumented immigrants who live and work here, we’ve been doing just fine.

    Our population and our police and court systems do a good job and this has resulted in a very safe community, without any effort to target, undocumented but otherwise law abiding immigrants, who contribute to our society.

    A Fair and Welcoming approach increases legal behavior. It makes it easier for people to work with our police and our system, and to report crimes against themselves and others.

    A Fair and Welcoming approach could only increase lawful behavior. It would make it more possible for the immigrants to comply with all laws and report crimes. It would make it harder for people to do crimes against immigrants, if immigrants can report crime or illegal exploitation to police.

    In other words, we get a safer, more law abiding and more prosperous community.

    It’s the approach taken by the entire state of California, which has a very successful economy. California’s economy recently surged to 6th in the world, ahead of France.

  20. What’s sad is they rejected it so quickly. Why not do some research and not just dismiss it? Apparently enough people in the community felt it important.

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