Little Egg Harbor Adopts ‘No Sanctuary’ Resolution

Mar 20, 2019
Photo by: file photo Township Deputy Mayor John Kehm (left) with Commiteeman Ray Gormley.

The governor of New Jersey and his attorney general issued an immigration trust directive in November 2018, making New Jersey essentially a sanctuary state, and now in March 2019, Little Egg Harbor has declared itself a “no sanctuary” township.

During the March 14 township committee meeting, Deputy Mayor John Kehm announced resolution 87 of 2019 opposing New Jersey becoming a sanctuary state and resolving for Little Egg Harbor to never become a sanctuary city.

The resolution states the “Township Committee of Little Egg Harbor opposes New Jersey from becoming a sanctuary state because New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and the Governor of the state and the New Jersey Legislature should be more concerned with reducing spending and property tax reduction for the legal residents and taxpayers of New Jersey.”

It also asked the governor and Legislature to re-evaluate their position.

“Be it further Resolved that Little Egg Harbor Township shall never become a sanctuary city and that all local, state and federal laws shall be strictly enforced and the residents of Little Egg Harbor shall be the primary concern of the Governing Body.”

A year ago, Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s directive shielded illegal immigrants from routs by local law enforcement cooperating with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Grewal found that the federal government’s reliance on state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal civil immigration law presented significant challenges to New Jersey’s law enforcement officers in building trust within the state’s large and diverse immigrant communities.

“It is well-established, for example, that individuals are less likely to report a crime if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to immigration authorities,” Grewal stated in the directive. “This fear makes it more difficult for officers to solve crimes and bring suspects to justice, putting all New Jerseyans at risk. It is therefore crucial that the State of New Jersey makes very clear to our immigrant communities something that may seem obvious to those of us in law enforcement: there is a difference between state, county, and local law enforcement officers, who are responsible for enforcing state criminal law, and federal immigration authorities, who enforce federal civil immigration law. Put simply, New Jersey’s law enforcement officers protect the public by investigating state criminal offenses and enforcing state criminal laws. They are not responsible for enforcing civil immigration violations except in narrowly defined circumstances. Such responsibilities instead fall to the federal government and those operating under its authority.

“To be clear, nothing in this new Directive limits New Jersey law enforcement agencies or officers from enforcing state law – and nothing in this Directive should be read to imply that New Jersey provides ‘sanctuary’ to those who commit crimes in this state. Any person who violates New Jersey’s criminal laws can and will be held accountable for their actions, no matter their immigration status. Similarly, nothing in this Directive restricts New Jersey law enforcement agencies or officers from complying with the requirements of Federal law or valid court orders, including judicially-issued arrest warrants for individuals, regardless of immigration status.”

The directive continued, “No state, county, or local law enforcement agency or official shall: 1. Stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on: a) actual or suspected citizenship or immigration status; or b) actual or suspected violations of federal civil immigration law. 2. Inquire about the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is: a) necessary to the ongoing investigation of an indictable offense by that individual; and b) relevant to the offense under investigation.”

According to Kehm, the local PBA is in favor of his resolution. “The governor’s campaign to make New Jersey a sanctuary state is not good for the township,” he said. “We won’t harbor illegal immigrants. We take an oath to protect and serve our residents and he (the governor) is not allowing us to do that.”

Kehm also stated he hoped the surrounding communities of Eagleswood, Tuckerton and Bass River would pass the resolution as well.

“I’m hoping they will get on board with this to make their towns safe from undocumented illegals who commit crimes.”

During the public comment period, Leona Weigele said she respected Kehm’s opinion. “However,” she said, “there are a lot of people who don’t share your opinion. Instead of you making this decision couldn’t the public first have a forum so others could give input on this? I’d appreciate a forum.”

“That is my opinion,” said Kehm. “I’ve lived here for 47 years and it’s senseless to harbor someone illegally or criminally.”

“There are plenty of people born here who are committing crimes,” Weigele retorted.

Local food pantry Director Penny Hughes said over the past year with the news reports focused on the president’s plans for a wall between Mexico and the U.S. she has already seen a reduction in Spanish-speaking people coming to the food bank for assistance. “They are so afraid of giving any kind of information that might aid in their deportment or their family members. If they need food we want them to be able to come and get it for their families and not be in fear.

“We feed everyone. Even if someone comes in off the street and says I’m hungry, they will get fed. The whole purpose is to help people in need. That’s the Christian way: to love God and love our neighbors. How can we not feed people?”

— Pat Johnson

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