The West New York Board of Commissioners voted to table two add-on resolutions regarding providing undocumented immigrants some form of identification at another raucous meeting last night.
“In February of 2019, the [U.S. Department of] Homeland Security came out with a new program which is called temporary protective status – which would enable our students and youth to obtain driver’s licenses and primarily be able to work,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Susan Colacurcio, also a high school teacher.
West New York Mayor Felix Roque spoke out in favor of the resolution introduced by his running mate, at one point commending Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal for their Immigrant Trust Directive.
The directive recently took effect across the state and is aimed at building bridges between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
” … As the mayor, I will ensure that they will closely follow the guidelines, will be closely followed by the police department – to restrict the use of our police officers to carry out President Trump’s assault on our hard working, law abiding immigrants,” he said.
“ICE officers have gone way too far under Trump’s initiative to destroy the lives of so many hard-working families.”
The first resolution, introduced by Colacurcio and seconded by Roque, called for implementing a municipal ID program. Union City adopted a nearly identical program that began on March 1st, 2017.
However, Commissioners Cosmo Cirillo and Gabriel Rodriguez said that while the program sounded worthwhile, they would not want to enact it on the fly, with Rodriguez stressing he wanted to discuss the matter with law enforcement personnel first.
“I believe this was a program that was already being discussed, we don’t want to be redundant in our programs. I’d need further time to review the programs with our directors of the program, obviously our [police] director and our law enforcement professionals,” Rodriguez said.
He added that the West New York Police Department treats all of their residents the same and do not inquire about anyone’s immigration status, an unwritten policy that has been longstanding for many years.
Rodriguez then made a motion to table the measure, which Corporation Counsel Michael Jimenez said was a superseding motion, and after some brief confusion, the matter was tabled by a vote of 3-2.
Cirillo, Rodriguez and Revenue and Finance Commissioner Margarita Guzman voted yes to table the resolution.
Just when it appeared that a West New York meeting may end with marginal controversy, Roque introduced another add-on resolution, this one calling on the New Jersey Assembly to pass bill A-4743.
In short, the legislation would create two categories of driver’s licenses and identification cards, allowing residents unable to prove lawful residence in this country to receive permits, standard driver’s licenses and/or identification cards.
Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, a former aide to Vincent Prieto when he was the assembly speaker, said that while the action sounded fine in theory, it would not be good practice to vote on the resolution without a thorough review of the bill.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to read this bill, I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity to speak to our [state] senator or assembly members, about how they feel, the conversations they’ve had with their colleagues down in Trenton,” he explained.
“I think that would be important for us to know before voting on this, so I would move that we table this until I at least have an opportunity to speak to our representatives in Trenton.”
Rodriguez seconded a motion to table, calling the concept, “a great idea,” but concurring with Cirillo that he would’ve appreciated an opportunity to read the legislation and/or have a conversation with the mayor prior to the vote.
That expectedly led to a short back-and-forth between the two, who are running two opposing slates in the May 14th municipal elections.
“I just want you to promise me something: don’t give me the ‘manana’ next month when we’re in front of the people,” Roque began.
“I don’t want to do what you do mayor,” Rodriguez answered with a laugh.
“Please, take your time, and if you want to read it, don’t say ‘oh I haven’t had enough [time] to review it’ because you’re actually jeopardizing a lot of people out there – they need to open accounts, they need to have IDs,” the mayor added, claiming the program would also be helpful for police operations.
The second superseding motion to table passed by the same vote of 3-2.
During the public portion of the meeting, Adil Ahmed, an independent commissioner candidate who has worked on immigration issues, said the matter needs a comprehensive review before being implemented since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can often access an ID database.
Additionally, Troy Mack, who has advocated for various immigration programs since early 2017, expressed great frustration with the fact that Roque was introducing these type of initiatives during an election cycle – after allegedly taking no interest two years ago.
“I advocated, and other people advocated – some in this room and some in other council chambers – advocated for these proposals,” he exclaimed.
“There are 12 mayors in Hudson County, 11 of them met with us. My mayor, of where I live, at 6035 Park Avenue apartment 117, in the Town of West New York, would not meet with us – nor would his senior aide Manny Diaz.”
After about three months of consistent pleas, the West New Board of Commissioner unanimously approved a resolution in May 2017 declaring the town a “fair and welcoming community.”
A copy of the two resolutions tabled at last night’s meeting can be read here.
The meeting streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: