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.
“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.”
“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’
“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.
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
–Source: NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice