Jersey City Council passes resolution calling on Trump, Congress to end migrant detention

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The Jersey City Council became the second city in Hudson County to pass a resolution calling on President Donald Trump (R) and Congress to end immigration detention at last night’s meeting.

The council unanimously approved the resolution (8-0, Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro was absent) after hearing from multiple speakers, some of them sharing their own experiences with family separation as a result of current immigration policies.

“As public officials elected to represent the values of the City of Jersey City community in New Jersey, we condemn the inhumane treatment of migrants at our borders and in the interior of the country,” the resolution says.

“We affirm that as history and law have dictated, all men, women, and children who come to our borders have a right to due process and to the full and fair opportunity to seek protection in the United States.”

For example, Mishal Khan travelled from Old Bridge to tell the council that at the age of 19, she was separated from her father and at the age of 26, she was separated from her brother due to deportation.

“There are severe mental health effects and trauma in each person who has to experience family separation and immigration detention. The separation from my family has caused me trauma and depression that will stay with me forever,” said Khan.

“We need to reunite families and end immigration detention and the cruel practices of [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE. Please consider supporting this resolution.”

Jersey City resident Mia Scanga also called on the council to pass the resolution so that it encourages other New Jersey municipalities to do the same.

Scanga is of Italian descent and she explained that she has family members in Florida and Pennsylvania who are anti-immigrant and she often reminds them that there was a time in history when Italian immigrants weren’t welcome.

“I have to constantly remind them that there was a similar situation in the 1920s, it was called the Immigration Act of 1924 and it was very, very anti-Italian. It’s a shame that we even have to propose a resolution like this, but considering what’s happening, we really do need to.”

The resolution was sponsored by Council members James Solomon, Mira Prinz-Arey and  Lavarro.

In an interview, Solomon said that a board member of the New Jersey branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) approached the city council to consider taking up the resolution, and he was eager to support such a measure.

“As a city, especially as a city of immigrants, a city next to Ellis Island, we have to raise our voices and say: ‘no, these practices have to end,’ that when we do policies of migration they have to be done thoughtfully, and have to be done humanely, and they cannot harm families in the way that we are doing right now.”

He also emphasized that current immigration policy focused heavily on deportations of people without legal status predates U.S. President Donald Trump (R).

According to a report in the Washington Post from November, President Barack Obama’s  (D) administration deported 1.18 million people in his first three years, while the number of deportations has been a little under 800,000 to date under Trump.

Nevertheless, according to Solomon, it appears that Trump’s immigration policies are more cruel.

“It has, unfortunately, gotten worse under the Trump administration because there is a degree of cruelty to their actions that seems intentional, seems designed to send a message to immigrants that they are not welcome here.”

He added that’s why it’s important for the council to have taken up the resolution so that the city can send the opposite message to immigrants.

Another speaker expressed anger and outrage that ICE is paying municipalities to house migrant detention centers.

According to a Business Insider report, New Jersey has 17 migrant detention centers.

Solomon further stated that the council has taken action on that front too.

In 2018, they passed a resolution to call on Hudson County to end its immigration detention contract with ICE, and because of subsequent advocacy, the county announced that they would phase out detaining immigrants for ICE by the end of 2020.

“We shouldn’t be profiting off of the detention of immigrants, off of a system that is unjust,” said Solomon.

Jersey City is the second city in Hudson County to pass such a resolution, with Hoboken being the first to do so last week.

Jersey City is now the fifth municipality in New Jersey to pass such a measure, with Montgomery, Bound Brook, and Princeton previously passing resolutions.