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|3/27 Morristown, NJ: City council endorses immigrant crackdown
Released 27 March 2007  By Maura McDermott, The Star-Ledger
3/27 Morristown, NJ: City council endorses Racist anti-immigrant crackdown, your actions is needed!
We encourages you to call, write and e-mail to the Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello to protest their racist anti-immigrant decision:
Mayor Donald Cresitello
Town Of Morristown
200 South Street, CN 914
Morristown, NJ 07963-0914
Morristown council endorses immigrant crackdown
March 27, 2007
The Morristown Council voted 6-1 tonight to endorse the mayor's effort to get the town's police deputized as federal immigration officers despite a protest by hundreds of people.
"We are looking for law-breakers and that is it," said Councilman Dick Tighe. "We're trying to take criminals off the streets, we're trying to take criminals out of the country."
Mayor Donald Cresitello has asked the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to train and deputize up to 10 officers so they could charge suspects with immigration violations and order them to appear in federal court, which could ultimately lead to deportation.
The mayor's action did not require the council's consent, but the panel tonight signaled its approval of his move.
If the town's effort is successful, Morristown could be among the nation's first municipalities to gain such powers. Only 10 law enforcement agencies now participate in the federal program: Florida and Alabama state police, and eight correctional institutions. About 20 municipalities have applied, according to ICE.
The overflow crowd tonight spilled into the town hall lobby, where officials had rigged up loudspeakers in advance, and onto the steps of town hall, where 200 to 300 protesters chanted and carried signs. The protesters delivered petitions they said were signed by more than 3,300 Morristown residents and about 600 others who oppose the town's action.
"Our Morristown community will be even more racially divided than it already is," said Xiomara Guevara, executive director of the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs. "This community will be known statewide as a racist and nontolerant community."
Protesters will return to the twice monthly council meetings until the town backs down, said Stuart Sydenstricker, a member of Wind of the Spirit, a local immigrant resource center helping to organize opposition.
"Morristown is being watched from all over the country," Sydenstricker said. "If it happens here, it will happen other places."
But supporters of the town's action turned out in force, too, arguing the town needs to crack down on illegal immigration.
"I've heard a lot of comments how we're a nation of immigrants, said Gayle Kesselman, co-chair of New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control in Carlstadt. "The fact is, we're also a nation of laws."
"This program will be used to deport violent criminals, not to conduct sweeps," she said. "We're talking about violent criminals that shouldn't be here in the first place."
Morristown's critics fail to understand the gravity of the problems caused by illegal immigration, Cresitello said today.
"Maybe some of these people who live outside the community, if they had to have people invading their homes and passing out drunk and disorderly on their lawns, they might feel the same way those residents of Morristown do who are subjected to those kinds of conditions," Cresitello said before the meeting.
Police Chief Peter Demnitz has said the program may not be right for the town, since residents who are crime victims or witnesses might fear going to police. The department already refers suspects to ICE and, in one case, a known gang member was deported, according to Demnitz.
Several council members said they support the mayor's effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, in spite of vocal opposition.
The influx of immigrants -- many of them in the country illegally -- is burdening the town with overcrowded homes, unsafe conditions and higher costs, such as a sharp increase in the number of schoolchildren who qualify for free lunches, Tighe said.
He rejected accusations that the move is racist.
Critics, Tighe said, "don't have a clue what this town is about, not a clue, and they should get out of town, too."
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