Kim Guadagno misses the point on sanctuary cities
In a recent meeting with The Record’s editorial board, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno called the movement to get cities and towns to designate themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants a “political stunt,” saying that the declarations would not prevent customs officials from enforcing immigration laws and detaining undocumented immigrants. Guadagno misses the point of these designations and exposes her lack of understanding of New Jersey communities with large immigrant populations.
Cities are designating themselves as “fair and welcoming” out of a sincere desire to improve public safety for all residents by creating trust between immigrants and local law endorsement. President Donald Trump is trying to bully towns into doing the work of federal border patrol agents by threatening to withhold federal funds if they do not. The threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids alone has created a chilling effect in many communities throughout New Jersey and the nation as a whole. This fear is compounded by the idea that local police are actively helping ICE round up immigrants for deportation.
When trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities breaks down, everyone in those communities suffers because immigrants become more reluctant to report crimes or act as witnesses to crimes out of fear of being deported if they come in contact with police. This makes it harder for the police to solve crimes and protect the community as a whole.
Throughout New Jersey, immigrants and their allies are asking municipalities to designate themselves as “Fair and Welcoming Communities” meaning that they will take a series of common-sense steps to enhance public safety and community policing efforts, decline voluntary assistance in federal deportation efforts, protect privacy and promote nondiscrimination at the local level. These steps include establishing policies declaring that civil immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility and local officials will not voluntarily participate in or assist in federal immigration enforcement efforts.
These policies should also include strong privacy protections to ensure that municipal agencies and agents do not inquire about, maintain records about, or share confidential personal information, except where otherwise required by state or federal law, regulation, a directive or court order. These policies should seek to strengthen protections against biased-based profiling and seek to strengthen non-discrimination protections in the provision of municipal services and the equal application of the law. In addition, these policies seek to bolster community policing efforts by establishing procedures for U visa certifications, which protect immigrant victims of crime and encourage greater community cooperation with law enforcement efforts.
Guadagno’s statements are even more disturbing given that her office oversees the New Jersey Center for Hispanic Research and Development. After seven years overseeing the CHRD, the lieutenant governor has learned nothing about the Latino community or the needs of the many immigrant and mixed status families that make up the Latino community.
At a time when she should be condemning Trump’s attempts to use local police to bulk up his deportation forces, she is instead trying to dissuade immigrant communities from seeking service and protection from those who are sworn to provide it.
Nothing has changed for Guadagno, who as the sheriff in Monmouth County prior to being elected as lieutenant governor, instituted what is known as the 287(g) program, which allows states and local governments to partner with ICE by delegating authority to the local level. Instead of standing up against Trump's destructive policies, she is aiding the president in his attempt to tear immigrant families apart. By telling immigrants to stand down for fear of retribution from Trump, Guadagno shows a total lack of courage or leadership.
Christian Estevez is the president of the Latino Action Network, a broad, statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to Latino political empowerment, the promotion of civil rights and the elimination of disparities in the areas of education, health, and employment. It was founded in 2009.