West New York Board of Education Trustee Jonathan Castaneda defended his new county job last night in light of a flyer and one public speaker accusing him of working hand in hand with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.Â
“I see a conflict: Jonathan is a board member, serves on different committees, he is a member of the school board in West New York, which is an immigrant community,” began Frank Ferreiro, a West New York activist who is supporting the “WNY Independents” team – one of the two slates opposing Castaneda’s “Your Children’s Future” slate in November.
“There’s been nationwide issues regarding ICE and immigrant parents of children in school systems. There’s been [reports of] ICE locking up parents, not just locking up criminals … this is a huge controversy.”
As Hudson County View first reported last month, Castaneda, also the chair of the West New York Democratic Committee, was hired as the chief of staff to Hudson County Correctional Facility Director Ron Edwards on July 30th at a $90,000 a year salary.
The timing was less than ideal, given that the county’s multi-million dollar contract with ICE allows immigrant detainees to be held at the Kearny jail – an issue that has drawn the ire of a number of liberal Democrats.
According to Ferreiro, this new position will require Castaneda to work in unison with ICE on a regular basis and given the make up of West New York’s school district, this is a clear cut conflict.
However, West New York BOE Corporation Counsel Lester Taylor said that a number of Ferreiro’s concerns weren’t justified.
“This board of education, in the last 12 of so months, has passed resolutions, I believe spearheaded by Mr. Castaneda, contesting certain policies and regulations coming from Washington, D.C. and otherwise supporting immigrant communities in West New York and New Jersey,” Taylor explained.
Back in February 2017, the West New York BOE approved a resolution declaring their school district a “safe zone” for immigrant students.
Furthermore, Taylor clarified that “board members do not have general access to confidential student information, they only have access to the information if and when a need arises.”
Late Tuesday evening, an anonymous flyer was distributed in West New York proclaiming that Castaneda “is working with ICE,” asking parents and residents to attend last night’s evening to express their outrage.
In response, the BOE trustee proclaimed that the flyer “was not factual,” pointing to the fact that the flyer did not provide any identifiers of who produced it.
Also noting that he’s a product of the school district and the son of immigrants, Castaneda wrote the flyer off as an election season stunt, stating that local families ongoing struggles with ICE hits close to home.
“I not only heavily voted and supported the ‘safe zone’ resolution that was introduced by [Board] President [Adam] Parkinson, but I introduced a resolution in support of DACA. To insinuate that I, of all people, are against immigrants and providing information to ICE … is not only ironic, but goes against everything that I stand for,” he said.
“These are deportation orders that my mother received years ago. A rejection notice. A rejection notice … I have lived this. I know this. To insinuate what has been insinuated is just vile.”
Castaneda is seeking re-election on November 6th with Adrienne Sires, the wife of U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8), and Joseph Rodriguez, the husband of Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez (D-7).