As a tourist destination, Atlantic City has welcomed visitors to its famous Boardwalk, casinos, shopping outlets, and other attractions. Now, city leaders, activists, and clergy are launching a campaign to make it "a fair and welcoming city" for immigrants regardless of their legal status.
A coalition of leaders linked arms in solidarity at a news conference Thursday afternoon at City Hall to announce plans to introduce a measure that would bar city officials from using any city resources beyond what is required by law to help immigration agencies carry out federal enforcement.
"It's about being moral and just. It's about sticking up for your neighbors," said Cristian Moreno-Rodriguez, the campaign coordinator, whose parents came to the United States from Mexico undocumented.
The proposal, which must be approved by the City Council and Mayor Frank M. Gilliam Jr., would prohibit Atlantic City officials from collecting information about immigrant status, profiling based on race or national origin, using city resources to conduct Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, or holding anyone in custody based on immigration detainers.
Councilman Kareem Shabazz said the proposal is under review by a Council committee and then must be vetted by the city's legal department. It could come up for consideration at a Feb. 21 Council meeting, he said.
Atlantic City has about 38,000 year-round residents. While Shabazz said it is not known how many undocumented immigrants live or work in the resort, he said he believes the city is home to many who live in fear of being deported.
"We are a tourist-centered city," said Councilman Moisse Delgado. "A lot of the services are provided through the immigrant population. We have to ensure that people who are taking care of others are taken care of."
One of three siblings raised in Atlantic City, Moreno-Rodriguez said he never understood why his parents grew anxious when the family passed a police car or why his mother refused to call police to report that her purse had been stolen.
"But now I know. Now I know that when you're undocumented in this country, a broken taillight can turn into deportation," Moreno-Rodriguez said. "Now I know that calling 911 might draw unwanted attention to your immigration status, even if you yourself are the victim."
A growing number of communities in New Jersey have enacted similar measures in light of a crackdown on undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration. They include Newark and, most recently, Hoboken, where the mayor signed an executive order on his first day in office on Jan. 1 that established a Fair and Welcoming Commission, among other provisions.
Last year, the Justice Department threatened to withhold public safety grants from Philadelphia and other so-called sanctuary cities that refused to share information with ICE. A federal http://www.philly.com/philly/news/judge-baylson-sanctuary-city-sessions-philadelphia-20171115.html judge in November blocked the federal government from withholding the money.