Ravi Bhalla, the first Sikh man to become a mayor in New Jersey, was sworn into his new position as mayor of Hoboken on New Year’s Day. His first action as mayor was to declare Hoboken a “fair and welcoming city” by executive order. While the declaration shies away from the word “sanctuary,” perhaps in a bid to avoid the ire of the anti-immigrant Trump administration, the policies detailed in Bhalla’s order are reminiscent of those we’ve come to associate with sanctuary cities.
First and foremost, Bhalla has ordered that agents of the Hoboken city government will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in enforcing federal immigration regulations, like assisting with ICE raids or honoring detainer requests that are not based upon criminal warrants. The order also promises that Hoboken will not enter into any 287(g) agreements with ICE, referring to the law that allows ICE to delegate functions of their jobs to local law enforcement agencies across the US.
Other highlights of the “welcoming” policies include a directive against identity-based profiling by law enforcement, and a rule that city agencies must provide bilingual services to those of limited English Proficiency if their primary language is spoken by at least 5% of the municipal population.
Hoboken will establish a Fair and Welcoming City Commission to make sure that these policies are indeed followed. As stated in the order, “The goal of the Fair and Welcoming City Commission shall be to ensure implementation of policies that preserve and protect our diverse and inclusive community, and will serve as a resource for immigrant community members with questions, comments, or concerns about safety or local government’s role in defending vulnerable communities.”
Ravi Bhalla won the mayoralty in the face of racist attacks, in a national environment of anti-minority and anti-immigrant hysteria. This executive order is a progressive step toward ensuring than marginalized people of color, especially undocumented immigrants, feel at least a little more secure in their homes even as the kettle of white supremacy continues to boil over.