Bloomfield Council Approves Township Designation as “Welcoming City”

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano reads resolution aloud.

The Bloomfield mayor and council unanimously passed a resolution to designate the township as a “Welcoming City” at their regular meeting on Monday evening, receiving a standing ovation from the attendees.

The resolution, entitled “Fair and Welcoming Bloomfield Resolution,” affirms that the Township “values its ethnic, racial, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity,” citing diversity as a source of Bloomfield’s strength, and stating that Bloomfield residents “…are concerned about how the new presidential administration will impact their lives and families, whether they will be forced to leave this country, and whether rights and protections afforded to them will suddenly be taken away.”

It goes on to state the need for cooperation between the immigrant community and the police force to ensure the health and safety of residents.

The key provisions of the resolution state, in part:

…the Township of Bloomfield supports the establishment and communication of a clear policy that local police and government agents will not enforce federal immigration law nor help facilitate ICE deportations, except where legally required to do so. This includes developing a clear policy that the Township and its law enforcement agents and employees will not: enter into any contracts, agreements or arrangements, including “287(g) agreements” or Intergovernmental Service Agreements with the federal government that deputize local law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents or use local facilities to house immigrants in deportation proceedings; participate in joint operations with ICE, including, but not limited to setting up traffic stops for purposes of immigration enforcement or assisting in raids; stop, arrest or detain people based on perceived or actual immigration status or belief the person has committed an immigration offense; arrest, detain or transfer individuals based on warrantless immigration detainers or administrative warrants; or allow ICE access to Township facilities, property, equipment or databases without a judicial warrant.”

The resolution further commits that the Township will have strict policies prohibiting discrimination or profiling based on many factors, including immigration status. It also reaffirms the Township’s commitment to enforcing worker protections such as Earned Sick Days and living wage laws, regardless of immigration status, and states “the Mayor and Council is committed to publicly and vigorously opposing any government registry based on religion or national origin.”

The full resolution can be found here.

A total of 16 people spoke during public comment regarding the resolution, most of whom spoke in support of its passage.

The first to speak was Reverend Joel Hubbard of Park United Methodist Church of Bloomfield.

Reverend Hubbard began by commending the mayor and council for presenting the resolution and for the intention to make Bloomfield a “welcoming and safe” community. He stated that the Park United Methodist Church congregation comprises about 15% first generation immigrants and that they “appreciate it.” He went on to say that he would “encourage the council to develop and share the process by which this will come to fruition.”

He also stated he had concerns with a sentence toward the end of the resolution that notes that no employee would be prohibited from sharing information about documentation with federal agencies. This sentence reads:

Nothing in this Order shall restrict a municipal agent, employee, or agency from maintaining, requesting, sending, receiving, or exchanging information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, with another Federal, State, or local government entity, as governed by 8 U.S.C. 1373 and 8 U.S.C. 1644.”

The regulations cited in the resolution are provisions of federal law.

Reverend Hubbard also spoke about his church’s participation in the Greater Bloomfield Interfaith partnership with several other local congregations who work together to provide for the less fortunate, and are providing transitional housing for a refugee family from Syria, who are now settled temporarily in Bloomfield. He invited the mayor and council and the Civil Rights Commission members to attend their next Interfaith meeting on Sunday, March 12.

Max Herman, a 17-year resident of Bloomfield, stated he is a professor of sociology and said that the consensus is that immigrants pose “only a minor threat to the community” in terms of crime. He said, “I applaud this resolution,” but indicated it could go even further.

Stephen St. Hilaire said he had been at the last meeting of the interfaith organization and heard testimony of those who are refugees. He called the resolution “a good beginning.”

Jane Califf thanked the council for initiating the resolution, joining “over 600 towns and cities that have endorsed resolutions like this.” She said cracking down on undocumented immigrants causes children to miss school and tears apart families. She advocated for a policy to help the undocumented become legal immigrants, and said she would like to see support to educate people that “immigrants are not the enemy.” She encouraged the mayor and council to post the resolution on every website to help educate people.

Mary Shaughnessy also spoke in support of the resolution, pointing out that 20% of Bloomfield’s students come from families that don’t speak English, and that it is difficult to get their families involved with the schools, as they are “frightened by authority figures.” She said when immigrants don’t come forward, “we all suffer.’

Not all speakers supported the resolution. Chuck Bainbridge spoke against it, saying that he had no problem with legal immigrants, but that he did have a problem with illegal immigrants. He said other countries have had “big problems” with unvetted immigrants, citing Sweden and several other countries as examples. He also pointed out terrorist incidents in the United States that he said involved immigrants to this country.

Another speaker said that as a next step standards should be applied evenly for other issues such as marijuana, and that the resolution seemed “a little silly,” since the town wasn’t aggressively enforcing immigration laws anyway.

Several immigrants spoke to thank the mayor and council for the support. One man spoke emotionally that he only came here to work.

Another stated he came here 17 years ago, works as a carpenter, and has two daughters. “I’m scared,” he said. “We’re not 100% sure what’s going to happen. We’re people who come here for work or to do something for our families and this country. In our countries there’s nowhere to progress. I’m proud of this community. Thank you.”

Councilman Carlos Pomares translated for a woman who didn’t speak English. She emphasized that her friends’ children are afraid to go to school, and the adults worried about being picked up at their jobs.

Lois Ross thanked the mayor and council as well and applauded the resolution. She said her family were Polish immigrants who came to Bloomfield 100 years ago and worked at Oakes Mill. Ross said she values the diversity in her neighborhood, and that this is part of what “makes Bloomfield great.” She said she had taught English as a second language and that she was struck by how anxious her students were to learn English and “become part of this democracy.”

MaryAnn D’Urso, a first-generation American whose father came from Italy, commended the governing body for the resolution and encouraged them to go “deeper and stronger.”

Prior to the passage of the resolution, Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano read the resolution out loud.

Councilwoman Davis spoke briefly, saying, “The speakers did a great job sharing why people come here.” She congratulated the immigrants who spoke and “put themselves on the line” despite fear, saying she was proud to have them in Bloomfield.

Councilman Pomares spoke about his family’s immigration from Cuba, noting that his mother, although a legal immigrant, always had a fear of “rocking the boat.” “The fears we see today are not new, they are not unprecedented,” he said.

Mayor Venezia thanked the community for coming out and supporting the resolution. “I’m a true believer that all politics is local,” he said. He pointed out that all immigrants in our community support our local businesses, and that 80 different countries are represented in Bloomfield High School. He also said that their research showed that there had been zero incidents in Bloomfield involving undocumented immigrants in the past four years where the police had to contact ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) because of a serious crime being committed. “It just goes to show you it’s a fallacy that immigrants are criminals,” he added.

The resolution passed 7-0 on a roll-call vote.

Other Business

At the beginning of the meeting, the mayor and council issued a proclamation honoring the Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce on its 100th anniversary, and declaring March Women’s History Month. In addition, they issued proclamations honoring the Berkeley School, Sherwin Williams Paint, the Bloomfield Soccer Club, township employees and the MLK Day of Service Committee for their work in making the MLK Day of Service on January 14.

President’s Volunteer Service Awardees Tyler Davis, Tyna Davis, Brielle Guimaras and Maria Probst, with Mayor Venezia.

Councilwoman Davis also honored the recipients of the President’s Volunteer Service Awards that were given out at the Martin Luther King Day of Service celebration on January 16.

Harry Delgado of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police announced that the Bloomfield Police Department had achieved accreditation by the NJ State Association of Chiefs of Police, a process that can take up to two years. He explained that accredited police departments must meet state and national standards pertaining to policies and procedures throughout the department. Delgado said that the benefits of being accredited include reduced risk of litigation and liability and decreased insurance rates, as well as better serving the community due to increased operational efficiency.

Accreditation Program Manager Harry Delgado, left, presents Police Director Sam DeMaio with Certificate of

He commended Police Director Sam DeMaio and Accreditation Manager Anthony DeZenzo for the accomplishment, and presented Director DeMaio with the framed certificate of accreditation.

The governing body passed a resolution appointing Heather Nolen, Timothy Cummings, Mary Shaughnessy and Meghan Collins to the Environmental Commission. Councilman Nick Joanow was appointed as liaison.

The mayor and council also appointed a full roster of members to the Local Emergency Planning Council.

Ordinances passed on second reading included an amendment to the ordinance governing feral cats, which will allow for a new Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) program in Bloomfield. The council also voted to approve a contract with People for Animals to oversee the program and ensure compliance with the record-keeping required by the ordinance.

Other ordinances passed on second reading included the establishment of a “cap bank” for the town for use in case of emergencies and an update to the Police Department roster to allow for 11 lieutenants and 16 sergeants.

The next council meeting will be a conference meeting to be held on Monday, March 13, 2017, at 7 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement building.