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On June 26, citizens descended on the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting to denounce a proposed anti-immigrant resolution. After hearing from dozens of county residents, most of whom were contesting the resolution, the Freeholders voted to table the item and rework it.
The room, which was at capacity and overflowed into the hall, largely discredited the resolution which said, in part, that “the Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Monmouth opposes New Jersey becoming a sanctuary state.” It listed multiple reasons, including New Jersey’s high property taxes as well as concerns about the health and safety of the state’s residents. Those speaking against the resolution included clergy members from an array of faiths, activists, attorneys, and recent immigrants, as well as volunteers from Casa Freehold, an immigrant rights advocacy organization.
Commentary from the public tackled the resolution’s points, noting that there is no legal merit to the resolution, since law enforcement must follow directions by the state attorney general — not individual boards of Freeholders. Others noted that immigrants contribute to the New Jersey economy and shared personal anecdotes. Others stressed studies which revealed that such mandates as the proposed resolution strain law enforcement for multiple reasons including that immigrants do not inform police of crimes if they fear deportation.
According to Jim Keady, one of the speakers and former candidate for NJ District 4 Congress, “It was incredibly heartening to see such a broad range of dozens of grassroots community leaders turn out in opposition to this misguided resolution.” Keady noted that the resolution was nothing other than to “pander to the base of the Republican Party. From a public policy point of view, the resolution does not address the core issue – the need for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Many of those dissenting the resolution vowed that they would return if the resolution is re-worded and presented for another vote. While thanking the Freeholders for listening and then tabling the resolution, several stated that they hoped the resolution is instead permanently tabled. Some also stressed the need for a more balanced board of Monmouth Freeholders, since it has been controlled by Republicans for many years.
Moira Nelson and Michael Penna, the 2019 Democratic candidates for Monmouth County Freeholder, released a public statement which said, “We fully support our immigrant neighbors regardless of their status in this country and we support organizations that provide resources to help our new neighbors to become fully integrated and productive members of our community. Every human deserves dignity, respect, and opportunity. If we empower our new neighbors with knowledge and resources related to legal immigration, education, housing, health, employment, and safety, they are much more likely to fully contribute to our society and to thrive, and hopefully they will be on the path to legal citizenship. Immigrants throughout Monmouth County are already fearful because of what’s happening at the federal level. The inflammatory language in today’s resolution only contributes to that fear. We hope that the Freeholders permanently table this resolution. We encourage our Freeholders to focus on priorities directly impacting Monmouth County’s residents every day, such as affordability, rather than fueling an already divisive cultural conversation.”