Morristown council declares town a ‘Fair and Welcoming’ community

Members of the Clergy Council and Wind of the Spirit thank the Mayor for supporting a Fair & Welcoming Community resolution. From left: Rev. Alison Miller, Rev. Cynthia Black, Mayor Dougherty, Rev. Charles Perez, Rev. Sarah Green, Patroal Associate Maria Vargas, Brian Lozano (Wind of the Spirit), Rev Allen Wells.
Members of the Clergy Council and Wind of the Spirit thank the Mayor for supporting a Fair & Welcoming Community resolution. From left: Rev. Alison Miller, Rev. Cynthia Black, Mayor Dougherty, Rev. Charles Perez, Rev. Sarah Green, Patroal Associate Maria Vargas, Brian Lozano (Wind of the Spirit), Rev Allen Wells, Sept. 26, 2017.
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Morristown’s council on Tuesday unanimously approved a “Fair and Welcoming Community” resolution that celebrates the town’s diversity while striving to calm fears about President Trump’s immigration policies.

Memorializing prior statements by the mayor and police chief, the resolution pledges that police and town employees won’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers, or inquire about residents’ citizenship, unless compelled by law.

It also opposes any government registry based on religion or national origin.

“I’m very much in support of this resolution,” said Council President Stefan Armington, calling it a first step toward more specific anti-discrimination policies.

Asserting that immigrants help make Morristown “an amazing place to live and work,” Mayor Tim Dougherty said the measure should boost safety by encouraging them to cooperate with local authorities.

Brian Lozano of Wind of the Spirit at Morristown rollout of voluntary municipal I.D. cards, Aug. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Brian Lozano of Wind of the Spirit at Morristown rollout of voluntary municipal I.D. cards, Aug. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“The theory is… if your local police are enforcing immigration law, most witnesses and victims will be afraid to come forward. And it’s that clear and simple,” he said, thanking the council, immigration advocates and local clergy for supporting the resolution.

Morristown joins Madison, Dover and Maplewood among nearby towns that have declared themselves “Fair and Welcoming,” New Jersey’s version of a so-called Sanctuary City. 

Morris Township’s governing body declined to pursue this status earlier this year.  Fifteen municipalities across the state have enacted resolutions similar to Morristown’s, according to the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

Seventeen members of the public spoke in favor of Morristown’s resolution; nobody voiced opposition. The 6-0 vote brought applause from the audience.

Alison Deeb — running for mayor against Dougherty  –and fellow Republican Bob Iannaccone voted with the Democratic majority.  Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris was absent.

“A lot of people have worked a long time to make this happen, and I’m glad that Morristown has stood on the side of love. This makes Morristown safer for everyone and continues to honor our rich heritage of diversity,” said the Rev. Cynthia Black, president of the Morris Area Interfaith Clergy Council and rector of Morristown’s Episcopal Church of he Redeemer.

While hailing the vote as a “first victory,” Brian Lozano of the Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center said the “symbolic act must be supported by real action” — an executive order and police directive.

“Our communities are under increased attack from nativism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and Islamophobia,” said Lozano, after delivering impassioned remarks recalling how his immigrant parents worked multiple jobs in Morristown to give him a shot at the American dream.

“Since the Colonial era, immigrants like my parents have been the nuts, bolts and gears of this town,” he said. “Still, immigrants are continually demonized and scapegoated.”

The resolution asserts that town residents, “like many Americans, are deeply concerned about how the new presidential administration will impact their lives and families, whether they will be forced to leave this country, and whether rights and protections afforded to them will suddenly be taken away.” 

It adds:

“Our diversity is a source of our municipality’s strength and the Morristown Town Council is committed to ensuring that all our residents can live and pursue their livelihoods in peace and prosperity.”

‘MESSAGES FROM THE TOP MATTER’

The Fair and Welcoming issue came before Morristown’s council in February. Presentations in local churches followed.

“It was really about building consensus,”  said Armington, who has estimated that as many as 3,000 undocumented immigrants reside in Morristown.

A municipal I.D. card program, intended to help undocumented immigrants and others without standard identification open bank accounts and obtain local services, was introduced by the town in August.

Prior to Tuesday’s Fair and Welcoming vote, a number of citizens urged the council to be on “the right side of history.”

“Messages from the top matter,” said Ashley Anglin.

Rosary Lescohier said she was proud to live in Morristown, “a place where we follow the call to uphold the dignity of all persons and to work for the common good.”

The resolution promotes the idea that “social cohesion is not dependent on homogeneity,” said Gloria Hu, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.

“We have come a long way, and must continue in the right direction—in the direction of a better world, one built on cooperation and love, not the hate fear and violence that will destroy humanity,” said Kimberly Crone, an attorney for the American Friends Service Committee.

She accused the Trump administration of perpetuating a “violent culture of white supremacy” and oppression.

Clergy members meet with Mayor Tim Dougherty (far right) to discuss immigration. L-R: The Rev. Sarah Green, Rev. Carol Patterson, Father Hernan Arias (standing), Rev. Brandon Cho, Rev. Cynthia Black. Photo courtesy of Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Clergy members meet in February 2017 with Mayor Tim Dougherty (far right) to discuss immigration. L-R: The Rev. Sarah Green, Rev. Carol Patterson, Father Hernan Arias (standing), Rev. Brandon Cho, Rev. Cynthia Black. Photo courtesy of Mayor Tim Dougherty.

The Rev. Charles Perez, associate pastor of the Morristown United Methodist Church and the son of immigrants, recited an original poem, The Voices That Are Not Heard. 

Morristown police cannot afford to risk their reputations by partnering with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, said the Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.

“We are living in divisive times,”  Miller said.

As a black man who has experienced racial profiling, Orville McNally said he could relate to the plight of undocumented immigrants.

“It’s not a good feeling at all. It really takes away your human dignity to be innocent and yet be treated like you did something wrong,” McNally said.

“It’s fair, really fair and welcoming, that these humans, these God’s children — which we all are — have a place in Morristown.”

NEW JERSEY TOWNS WITH ‘FAIR & WELCOMING’ RESOLUTIONS

East Rutherford
Bloomfield
Orange
Montclair
South Orange
Maplewood
Jersey City
Union City
North Bergen
Hopewell Township
Highland Park
Red Bank
Madison
Morristown
Dover

–Source: NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice

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14 COMMENTS

  1. One of the biggest myths about immigrants is that they steal jobs from American workers, collect an excess of government benefits, and represent a drain on the economy.

    Do you really think that someone enterprising enough to uproot themselves to move to another country will suddenly want to do nothing, even though they could earn more working?

    When immigrants are working, they’re accused of stealing “our” jobs and when they’re out of work, they’re accused of stealing from the state. These accusations tell us more about critics’ prejudices than about immigrants’ behavior.

  2. Innocent children,who are born here should not have to live in fear. Many of them have gone on to serve in the military. All vets deserve our respect. We are talking about hardworking respectable individuals forced to leave their homeland. Most Americans come from similar backgrounds. No one is attempting to take anyone’s benefits and give them to someone else. Fair and Welcoming is the American way.

  3. Rosary is the only one talking sense and actually putting forth any cogent reasoning in this discussion. Thank you!

  4. Linda, these Morristown politicians have no respect for vets I can attest to that since they are trying to put me out of business, they should get their priorities straight and stop their personnel agenda of retribution.

  5. Morristown has been a sanctuary city for quite some time. Anyone who supports this is anti-American. Absolutely disgusting.

  6. Let’s not make declaring Morristown a sanctuary city an “us vs them” debate. Veterans deserve the gratitude of us all and are more than entitled to their benefits and privileges (e.g. job preferences). We don’t have to make a choice between veterans and undocumented immigrants. What we need to do is come together to insist on immigration reform. And, in the meantime, we should act to insure that all residents of Morristown feel safe and welcome in our community.

  7. Morris Township is fair and welcoming, too – TO PEOPLE WHO COME HERE LEGALLY! This important distinction needs to be stressed in the coming election, along with all the other ways (especially the local tax rate) in which the Township is superior to the Town.

  8. A Word about “Sanctuary” Policies…

    The “Fair and Welcoming Community” resolution passed in Morristown tries to balance American ideals with a broken federal immigration system.

    The concept of “sanctuary” has a venerable role in human history. It has been an escape valve for society when the law can’t meet the deeper demands of justice.

    Instead of attacking sanctuary cities, we should be urging Congress and our current Congressman to listen to this message and to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

    Right now our laws don’t adequately protect the needs of the strangers who have crossed the border to take work that is eagerly offered them.

    No legal system can perfectly implement justice in every circumstance. Sanctuary serves now, as it has in the past, to correct and challenge these imperfections until we have a permanent solution.

  9. As a vet ?i cant get help but immigration can free housing they get everything y us American get nothing ?

  10. Can the legal citizens of Morristown also choose which laws that they can break, which will then be ignored by the police and town employees?

  11. What does this statement mean in regards to the police?
    “the resolution pledges that police and town employees won’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers, or inquire about residents’ citizenship, unless compelled by law.”
    Compelled by law? I was under the impression that police officers were sworn in acknowledging a statement similar to:
    they will faithfully, justfully and impartially perform all the duties of the police department………Which I was under the impression included enforcing the laws……

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