Tag Archives: New Jersey

Montvale, New Jersey will not be a sanctuary city, mayor vows

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Mayor Michael Ghassali

Laws and legal immigration still mean something to some politicians.

From NorthJersey.com: As a Syrian immigrant whose family fled Aleppo in 1980, weeks before hundreds of civilians were killed in a brutal siege, Michael Ghassali knows well the horrors facing today’s refugees.

But as the mayor of Montvale, Ghassali said, his allegiance is to the laws of his adopted country – even those he may personally disagree with. That is why Ghassali has vowed that under his administration, Montvale will not be a sanctuary city.

“I will not be signing any executive orders that will ask our employees to defy federal laws. A mayor should not be advocating the defiance of federal laws,” Ghassali announced in a Facebook post last week that has elicited both praise and condemnation.

The statement was in response to pressure from various advocacy groups that Ghassali said have approached him to declare the borough a safe haven for undocumented immigrants illegal aliens.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order last month suspending travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from coming into the country. The order has been blocked by an appeals court, and Trump has said he will issue a revised order. But it sparked protests across the country, and local politicians have taken a public position either supporting it or opposing it.

Trump also has called for a crackdown on illegal immigration. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a sweeping set of orders that authorize all agents to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more forcefully, instructing them to identify, apprehend and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter.

Several North Jersey towns have either approved or are considering resolutions to become sanctuary cities, a term that generally means local police would limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officers.

Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, who is also a Syrian-born immigrant, issued an executive order in January declaring the borough a sanctuary city. “As an immigrant from a country ruled by a dictator, it is important to me that our commander in chief upholds the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land,” Khairullah said last month.

Ghassali recalled in an interview this week his experience entering the country at 15 years old and the hurdles his family faced.

In Syria, his father was a tailor, working hard for a middle-class life for his family of four children. Ghassali remembers always feeling safe in Aleppo, even at night. Nevertheless, the Islamist uprising, revolts against the secular government led mostly by the Muslim Brotherhood, had been brewing in the country since 1976.

“My father was wise enough to know what was going on. He told us, ‘At some point, this will not be a safe place to live.’ And he decided that we should leave,” Ghassali said.

In 1980, members of Ghassali’s family boarded a flight with green cards in hand and headed to New York City, where they had family from his father’s side waiting for their arrival. They settled in Dumont. Ghassali said he became a citizen in 1987.

“I know firsthand the vetting system is intense – it’s always been that way. I don’t know how much more intense it could get,” said Ghassali, a Republican who ran for mayor as an independent.

“I wish the administration spent more time analyzing the current process before issuing such an executive order,” said Ghassali. “They should spend the time to look at the current process before causing havoc among the refugees.”

Ghassali said he has family members who are refugees or have been killed in the war in Syria. “My whole network is either a refugee or has a family or friend who is a refugee. I feel it. It is very personal,” Ghassali said. But, he said, “I have to remove emotions out of this if I want to do my job.”

A close friend of Ghassali’s who attends the same Syriac Orthodox church in Teaneck has been in the country illegally for 15 years, he said. Ghassali said that declaring Montvale a sanctuary city would not change the reality of his friend’s situation. “He’s been scared for 15 years,” Ghassali said. “That doesn’t change when a mayor signs an executive order.”

Ghassali said he hoped his stance was not misconstrued as being against diversity. About one-fifth of Montvale’s approximately 8,000 residents are foreign-born, according to 2015 census. Twenty-two languages are spoken at home, Ghassali said.

Ghassali is married to an Iraqi immigrant. On his block alone, he said, his neighbors hail from India, Pakistan and parts of South America. “Montvale is not against refugees, against immigrants, against diversity,” he said. “We are as diverse as they come.”

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New Jersey Democrats push measures to protect illegal immigrants, vow to defy Trump

wisniewskiFrom Fox News: Sanctuary city advocates in one state with a Trump friendly Republican governor are digging in their heels in the face of President Trump’s threat to cut off federal funding.

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey introduced bills this week calling on the state to reimburse so-called sanctuary cities that lose federal funding. And on Wednesday, Assemblyman John Wisniewski* introduced legislation designating New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” generally preventing law enforcement officers from initiating contact with immigration officials, and from using state resources for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws. *Wisniewski’s education includes a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law.

In addition, several towns that have significant immigrant populations have declared themselves sanctuaries, saying they will not reach out to immigration officials about illegal immigrants they arrest or provide a service to unless they are serious criminals or a national security threat.

“We are putting President Trump and his administration on notice,” said Wisniewski in written public announcement about his legislation. “New Jersey will not be a ‘willing partner’ to the unjustified and inhumane deportations of our neighbors and friends.” New York and California also have moved toward declaring their states sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.

Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign, has issued executive orders and directives aimed at border security and tracking down and deporting undocumented people illegal aliens.

He directed the Department of Homeland Security to identify and publish a list of sanctuary communities. Although no strict definition of the term exists, it is generally used to describe communities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The New Jersey measures have little chance of passing, given GOP resistance and Gov. Chris Christie’s veto threat, said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University professor of political science. “It’s more of a gesture to the immigrant community,” Baker told Fox News. “It’s a message to them that they would be protected against hypothetical actions by the federal government.”

In Maplewood, Mayor Victor DeLuca consulted with police administrators before crafting a sanctuary ordinance that became final at the end of January. DeLuca said police officials said they did not want the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws. “The police said ‘We don’t do it now,’” DeLuca told Fox News, “and there was a feeling on our part that wanted to make clear that there are distinctions between the role of the police department and the role of immigration officials.”

New Jersey has more than 500,000 illegal immigrants, according to estimates.

Republicans in the state legislature say they will not support sanctuary towns in any way. Christie, a Republican, says he will veto any legislation that would favor sanctuary cities.

Proponents of strict immigration enforcement say sanctuary communities are violating the law. “To have lawmakers in Trenton say ‘O.K., we’ll show the president, if they withhold funding, we’ll pay,’ is violating federal law,” said Ron Bass, founder of United Patriots of America, a New Jersey-based group that pushes for strict enforcement. “It’s like the state saying to sanctuary cities ‘You rob the bank, I’ll drive the [getaway] car.’”

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Muslim mayor declares borough immigrant sanctuary

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Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah

Keep it up demorats. You are going to get Trump another four years with your disrespect for law-abiding citizens.

From NJ.com: Syrian-born Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah signed an executive order Friday declaring the borough a sanctuary for immigrants.

The order signed Friday allows equal protection treatment for all borough residents, regardless of immigration status. The move comes one week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order barring refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Syria, from entering into the U.S.

“It is important to me as a person who came to the U.S as an immigrant, that we uphold our laws and values,” Khairullah said Saturday. “The U.S is the land of opportunity and dreams for many people all over the world.”

“No department, committee, agency, commission, officer or employee of the Borough of Prospect Park shall use any Borough funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of Federal Immigration Law,” the order reads.

Trump has signaled that he plans to take away federal funds from municipalities that declare themselves as (ILLEGAL) immigrant sanctuaries but Khairullah said he that wasn’t a factor in Prospect Park. “We are in a unique position that we don’t rely on federal funding,” Khairullah said. “Even if we were in that position, we would try to figure something out.”

Khairullah joins the ranks of other New Jersey mayors, such as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who have vowed to continue to protect (ILLEGAL) immigrants.

Prospect Park’s order recalls the borough’s history, founded by Dutch immigrants, and the continued diversity of its population. About a third of borough residents are foreign-born, according to Census data.

Khairullah was born in Syria and fled the country as a child. He later arrived in the United States in 1991. His political career started in 2001 when he was elected as a councilman in the borough. He has now served as the mayor for 11 years. Khairullah has long been an advocate for his native country and its embattled residents. This past September, he disclosed that he had lost two relatives in the ongoing civil war.

Khairullah, who has criticized Trump for his anti-immigrant stance, has also called out Gov. Chris Christie for his similar stance on Syrian refugees.

On Thursday, hundreds gathered in nearby Paterson to protests Trump’s travel ban.

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California considers an end to bail: ‘We’re punishing people simply for being poor’

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Proponent Assemblyman Rob Bonta

California: Where all decisions are now made under the interpretation of some fluid rules of “social justice.”

From Sacramento Bee: On any given day, most inmates in California jails have not yet been convicted of a crime. About 63 percent are being held awaiting trial, according to data collected by the Board of State and Community Corrections, an average of nearly 47,000 people. Federal statistics on the largest urban counties show that from 2000 to 2009, California kept unsentenced felony defendants in jail at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the country.

For state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the problem is clear: Bail is “just too expensive.” The median amount in the state is $50,000, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, five times higher than the national average.

Too many Californians find themselves stuck in custody because they cannot afford to bail out, the Los Angeles Democrat said, a personal crisis that can ripple across their lives in dramatic ways.

“They can’t pay their rent. They can’t pay child support or take their kids to school. There’s so many other consequences to that,” Hertzberg said. “That isn’t patriotic. That isn’t American. That isn’t the right thing to do.”

With criticism mounting that it creates unequal justice based on wealth, California is rethinking monetary bail. Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta are pursuing legislation this session to overhaul the practice, while Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye formed a working group in the fall to explore possible changes.

“The only nexus is between who gets out and who has money,” Bonta, a Democrat from Alameda, said. “We’re punishing people simply for being poor.”

Political interest in the issue has been surging nationally, with New Jersey and New Mexico recently eliminating bail for minor crimes. But any measure will likely face heavy opposition from bail bond agents, police officers and district attorneys who see the current system as integral to public safety.

Topo Padilla, president of the Golden State Bail Agents Association, said monetary stakes are the best way to ensure that someone appears in court after being released. “I can’t guarantee it either. But I have someone to back the game up. I have a co-signer,” he said. “And we do that at no cost to the taxpayers.”

California allows each county to set its own bail schedule by crime. In Sacramento, for example, rates range from $5,000 for possession of a controlled substance to $20,000 for resisting or deterring an officer to $1 million for sexual assault of a child.

Offenders can pay the entire amount, to be returned at the conclusion of their case, or apply for a surety bond through companies that charge a 10 percent fee. Those who cannot afford either option may ask a judge to adjust the amount based on factors such as their criminal history, the seriousness of the crime and their likelihood of showing up for their next court date.

It took David Howell 39 days and three requests for a bail reduction before he secured his release from the Sacramento County jail early last week.  In late December, the retired California Highway Patrol dispatcher was arrested on a charge of possession of a firearm while under a restraining order. He was stunned and “devastated” to find out that bail had been set at $200,000, twenty times the standard rate in Sacramento County for that misdemeanor.

At age 62, his only previous arrest had come in October, for a misdemeanor violation of the restraining order. He has disputed the allegations of domestic violence that prompted the order and his subsequent charges in court. Unable to afford the massive bail fee, Howell said, “I felt trapped.” For weeks, he could not take daily treatments for two eye conditions that are slowly making him blind.

Bail was eventually dropped to $100,000 and then, on Friday, to $15,000, in recognition of Howell’s short criminal history. After deliberating for two days about whether the money would be better spent on future legal costs and medical bills, he paid $1,500 for a commercial bail bond because fighting his case would be easier from outside jail.

“You feel like you’ve been thrown away. You feel like nothing,” Howell said. Despite his years in law enforcement, his faith in the fairness of the legal system is lost: “All the time I had been working in a dream world.”

Though Bonta and Hertzberg announced the bail overhaul as a legislative priority when the session began in December, nothing specific is proposed. Ideas have been floated to introduce risk assessment into the process, lower the schedule of bail rates or even do away with monetary bail altogether.

Consensus on a solution has not emerged, even among political allies. Hertzberg said he doesn’t mind the idea of someone bailing out of jail, as long as it is affordable, and his goal is not to put bail bond companies out of business.

Others working on the legislation, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of California, would like to see monetary bail eliminated. Legislative advocate Mica Doctoroff said the integrity of criminal justice is compromised when families have to pay a for-profit company to secure their loved ones’ freedom, potentially putting them into debt, even if the charges are later dropped. “You and your family can end up being forced to pay these fees for a crime you didn’t even commit,” she said.

The difficulties of mounting a defense from behind bars increase pressure on those who cannot post bail to simply accept a plea bargain and resolve their case, Doctoroff added. “Our existing money bail system has really driven justice and freedom further out of reach for far too many people in California, particularly low-income people and people of color.”

Read the rest of the story here.

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Boy Scouts ban 8-year-old transgender boy

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Joe Maldonado/CBS Photo

From CBS News: The Boy Scouts of America is facing tough questions after banning a child over his gender identity. Joe Maldonado, 8, who was born a girl and now identifies as a boy, was removed from his New Jersey Cub Scout troop. Joe’s family says parents of other children had complained.

Joe’s mother, Kristie Maldonado, says the organization already knew her son was transgender when she signed him up for the Cub Scouts, reports CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett. But now, the Boy Scouts of America, which is no stranger to controversy when it comes to membership rights, is telling them he’s not welcome.

“As a parent, how do you know that you don’t just have a girl who is a tomboy, and that it’s a transgender issue?” Barnett asked his mother. “I took a couple years; I didn’t realize it,” Maldonado said. Joe was born Jodi, but has been identifying as a boy for over a year. 

“Why did you want to join the Boy Scouts?” Barnett asked Joe. “Because all of my favorite friends were there,” Joe responded.  Joe was part of Cub Scout Pack 87 in New Jersey, but was recently removed over his legal gender, which is female.  “They knew full well he was not born a boy?” Barnett asked. “They all know Joe as when he was Jodi,” Maldonado said.

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America defended its actions, saying in part, “No youth may be removed from any of our programs on the basis of his or her sexual orientation,” but adding, “Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation.”  In recent years, the Boy Scouts have reversed bans on gay scouts and scout leaders. But this incident could spark a new debate.  Joe’s mom says the messages of support she’s received from the around the world have been overwhelming.  “I’m a scout leader here in the U.K., and would love him to be a member of our troop,” one mother wrote to her.

“How does it feel to receive that kind of support from another scout group in another country?” Barnett asked Maldonado. “It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful,” Maldonado said.

The Boy Scouts of America says its programs are for those who are identified as boys on their birth certificates. The organization told CBS News it offered the family alternative, co-ed programs for Joe, but Maldonado told us she’s not interested and instead wants an apology for her son. 

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Man beaten with crowbar for wearing Trump shirt

That good ol’ proggie tolerance in action.

man beaten for trump jersey

From NorthJersey.com: A 62-year-old male was assaulted in a Friendly’s parking lot for wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt, Bloomfield police reported Tuesday.

The victim was walking on West Passaic Avenue in Bloomfield at 5:41 p.m. Wednesday when a male in an older gray compact vehicle questioned him about his shirt of the Republican presidential candidate. The suspect directed profanities at the victim as he continued to follow the victim.

The suspect followed the victim to the restaurant at 1243 Broad St. The suspect then approached the victim armed with a crowbar. An altercation occurred, with the suspect striking the victim several times, police said.

The victim sustained injuries to his forearms, hands and thighs. He was treated at the scene. The suspect fled prior to police arrival, according to authorities.

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Police called to a South Jersey third-grade class party because of “racist” brownie comment

The mother of the third-grader plans to find another public school to send her son next year. I highly recommend home school.

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Via Philly.com: On June 16, police were called to an unlikely scene: an end-of-the-year class party at the William P. Tatem Elementary School in Collingswood, New Jersey. A third grader had made a comment about the brownies being served to the class. After another student exclaimed that the remark was “racist,” the school called the Collingswood Police Department, according to the mother of the boy who made the comment.

The police officer spoke to the student, who is 9, said the boy’s mother, Stacy dos Santos, and local authorities. Dos Santos said that the school overreacted and that her son made a comment about snacks, not skin color. “He said they were talking about brownies. . . . Who exactly did he offend?” dos Santos said.

The boy’s father was contacted by Collingswood police later in the day. Police said the incident had been referred to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The student stayed home for his last day of third grade.

Dos Santos said that her son was “traumatized,” and that she hopes to send him to a different Collingswood public school in the fall. And she wants an apology. She said she graduated from Collingswood High School and has two other children, a 21-year-old who also went through Collingswood schools, and a 3-year-old. Her husband, the third grader’s father, is Brazilian, dos Santos said.

“I’m not comfortable with the administration [at Tatem]. I don’t trust them and neither does my child,” she said. “He was intimidated, obviously. There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, ‘Tell me what you said.’ He didn’t have anybody on his side.

The incident, which has sparked outrage among some parents, was one of several in the last month when Collingswood police have been called to look into school incidents that parents think hardly merit criminal investigation.

Superintendent Scott Oswald estimated that on some occasions over the last month, officers may have been called to as many as five incidents per day in the district of 1,875 students.

Mayor Jim Maley

Mayor Jim Maley

This has created concern among parents in the 14,000-resident borough, who have phoned their elected officials, met with Mayor James Maley, blasted social-media message boards, and even launched a petition calling on the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office to “stop mandated criminal investigation of elementary school students.”

The increased police involvement follows a May 25 meeting among the Collingswood Police Department, school officials, and representatives from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, where school officials and police both said they were told to report to police any incidents that could be considered criminal, including what Police Chief Kevin Carey called anything “as minor as a simple name-calling incident that the school would typically handle internally.”

The police and schools were also advised that they should report “just about every incident” to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Carey said.

Previously, the school district, following the state’s Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials, had only reported incidents it deemed serious, like those involving weapons, drugs, or sexual misconduct. Both Carey and School Board President David Routzahn described the protocol set forth after that May meeting as a significant change in procedure.

“It was a pretty clear directive that we questioned vehemently,” Oswald said.

But a month after the meeting, and after police investigations that parents consider fruitless had begun to gain attention, Maley wrote in a public letter that the May 25 meeting was intended to “reinforce the applicability” of the MOA, “not to expand its terms.” Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo, in an accompanying statement, said she hoped Maley’s message “clarifies” the responsibilities of school officials.

Maley said in an interview Tuesday that there had been a “misunderstanding” during the May 25 meeting. But Oswald said the Prosecutor’s Office was shying away from its own instructions. “At some point, it seems, they’ve realized that the intent of the MOA that they’re leaning heavily upon is not what they directed us to do,” Oswald said. “It went way above what that MOA says.”

Another point of contention between the Prosecutor’s Office and school officials is what prompted Maley’s meeting in the first place. In a public letter issued to parents Monday, Routzahn said he was “not aware of any single event” in the district that might have prompted the Prosecutor’s Office to ask for a higher reporting standard.

But Maley said the Prosecutor’s Office had been concerned about a “delay” in reporting an incident at Collingswood High School this spring. He would not comment further, noting that the incident was under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Oswald said the high school incident had not been raised during the meeting May 25.

“I welcome discussion on that as well,” he said.

Several parents said they consider the recent police involvement not only ridiculous but harmful. Megan Irwin, who has two daughters who have attended Collingswood public schools and who teaches first grade in Pennsauken, said the police had been called to deal with behavior the schools could easily have handled.

“Some of it is just typical little-kid behavior,” Irwin said. “Never in my years of teaching have I ever felt uncomfortable handling a situation or felt like I didn’t know how to handle a situation.”

And Pam Gessert, a Collingswood resident who works as a school counselor in Burlington County, said that because teachers have the best relationships with students, they are most qualified to determine what happened in a particular incident.

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