Several West New York residents asked Mayor Felix Roque to take formal action against 287g, a controversial agreement the county has with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Town resident Dr. Larysa Sanchez called on Roque to pass an executive order that puts West New York’s unwavering support of immigrants in writing.
“We would like to know where you stand on 287g and if you would be willing to work with us to create a West New York fair and welcoming city’s mayoral executive order,” she asked.
While Roque, who was born in Cuba, said he and other officials treat all immigrants as equals, he would not commit to anything legally binding.
“All I can say to you: here we treat immigrants the same way we treat every [other] person in West New York. We treat them as a family and give them the respect they deserve,” Roque said, noting that everyone sitting upon the dais has family who immigrated from another country.
Next, Dr. Alex Sanchez, Larysa’s husband, explained why he thought 287g, which allows corrections officers to be deputized and have the powers of ICE in certain situations, was a huge detriment to a place like West New York.
After another local resident, Loretta Williams, called on Roque for an executive order, Troy Mack, who broached the subject at last month’s meeting, pointed out that 287g is a topic of increasing concern among residents so action needs to be taken in short order.
“If you’re here out of concern of the 287g agreement currently in place in Hudson County, would you mind raising your hand, please?,” Mack said, with about a dozen in attendance obliging.
“These are constituents of yours. These are neighbors of ours. These are our congregants, these are the customers of our businesses, these are the people with whom we share out streets and share our lives.”
Mack continued that the group in attendance, which included representatives from Hudson Civic Action – which opposes 287g – is “deeply concerned” that the terms of the agreement have changed since President Donald Trump took office.
At his State of the County Address in February, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said he stood by the 287g agreement since it is limited “to a tiny number of very dangerous individuals.”
In a subsequent interview, DeGise told Hudson County View that the county would not terminate the deal unless Trump pushed for drastic changes to the program.
However, according to Mack, the terms agreed upon under the Obama administration no longer apply.
“Because of this, the new guidelines of who will be processed, at the Hudson County level, are any indictable crime or disorderly persons offense,” Mack said, also praising the work of the West New York Police Department.
Again, Roque said he supported all the concepts being discussed, but he did not feel comfortable taking formal action at a moment’s notice.
“I share what you’re saying, I just have to see how we can put this in some kind of legal form and make it happen. And by the way, we are communicating, all the mayors are talking about this right now: it’s a hot topic.”
Mack, who was cut short after corporation counsel said his five minutes to speak had expired (Hudson County View had him clocked at four minutes and four seconds), made an implication that other municipalities had already taken action.
Both Jersey City and Union City have declared themselves sanctuary cities, though U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has gone on record saying that federal funding could be withheld in municipalities that do not enforce immigration laws.
Sanctuary cities don’t have a formal definition but are generally viewed as safe havens for undocumented immigrants.