By JOHN T. WARD
Human Relations Advisory Committee Chairman David Pascale told the group Monday night that he’ll be at the April 12 council meeting to “stand by” a statement that calls for town officials to “monitor and challenge” any costs arising from federal efforts to find and deport undocumented aliens.
The HRAC, meanwhile, rejected member Ashley Homefield’s proposal that the committee simply “make a statement on behalf of the community rather than pushing [a resolution] to vote by the council.”
On February 27, with hundreds of pro- and anti-immigrant protesters rallying outside borough hall, and an additional 100 or so packed inside the council chamber, the committee voted to oppose “any forced collaboration” between borough police and federal authorities when it comes to enforcing immigration law. It also agreed to send the proposed resolution to the council for possible action.
Here’s the document: RBHRC Resolution 022717
Widely — and mistakenly, committee members contend — characterized as a version of a sanctuary city declaration, the intent of the action was to focus borough attention on “unfunded mandates” from the federal government as part of the Trump Administration’s promise to deport millions of undocumented aliens, Pascale said.
On Monday, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said cities and towns that fail to deport aliens convicted of criminal offenses may lose grants from the Justice Department. Pascale, though, has previously said that Red Bank’s stance, if adopted, would “not in any way be defiant of federal law” and would not imperil federal funding.
Back to its usual meeting place of a fourth-floor borough hall conference room Monday night, with no audience, the HRAC revisited the resolution without taking any votes. Much of the session was devoted to a suggestion by Homefield that the group simply issue its own statement in support of undocumented aliens, who “are our neighbors,” rather than risk having the council ignore or reject the resolution.
If the council fails to adopt the resolution, “then what do we do to mitigate the hurt and the pain that the residents will feel” as a result of dashed expectations, asked Homefield, who is married to Republican Councilman Mark Taylor.
The “power” of the committee’s stance could be “elevated by simply making a statement on behalf of residents based on the feedback we’ve been given,” she said.
If the resolution fails, “then we sit and reflect on what is the core value piece of this,” with a possible statement of re-affirmation, said member Kate Okeson.
Committee members appeared to agree, as they did a month ago, that HRAC wasn’t proposing any radical change from current policy on policing, which is dictated by a 2007 directive from the New Jersey Attorney General.
Rabbi Marc Kline, of the Monmouth Reform Temple, attending his first meeting as an HRAC member, asked whether the resolution in fact has any teeth and is necessary.
“Right now, there’s a police officer at St. Anthony’s with members of my congregation putting lights on bikes,” said Kline. “I know that many people bringing bikes are not documented, and they trust that they can go there and get lights and a helmet, and the police are a part of that. That’s a great statement for what it means to be a trusting community.”
Committee member Michael Clancy, who heads the borough Republican party, raised the prospect of creating the impression in a “criminal element” among immigrants that Red Bank would be a safe place to hide out. He also cited a concern that pro-deportation shoppers and businesses might stop coming to town. Pascale called each a “valid” concern, though he disagreed with both.
Kline was appointed last week to replace Sean Di Somma, who resigned, citing a recent career move. Councilman Mike Whelan, who serves as liaison to the HRAC, was absent Monday night.