Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s executive order stands as model for immigrants' rights and public safety, ACLU-NJ and NJAIJ say

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla signed a wide-reaching, comprehensive fair-and-welcoming executive order as his first official act as mayor, ringing in 2018 by demonstrating leadership in protecting the civil rights of immigrants and public safety, said advocates from the ACLU of New Jersey and New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

"New Jersey stands for inclusion and community, not fear and intimidation," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. "In contrast to a federal administration that embraces policies of exclusion and xenophobia, Mayor Bhalla's action shows what America looks like at its best: a place that values the lives and well-being of all people. By signing this order, Mayor Bhalla – a civil rights lawyer and the first turbaned Sikh mayor in America – is sending a powerful message: our towns will not be subservient to the federal government's discriminatory and unconstitutional immigration priorities. We applaud Mayor Bhalla for starting his administration on a note of resistance and justice for all."

The executive order (PDF), which Bhalla signed into law as his first act as mayor, forbids Hoboken officials from using any city resources, apart from what the law requires, to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or help the agency carry out federal enforcement functions.

Among other provisions, the order prohibits Hoboken officials from:

  • Collecting information about immigration status
  • Profiling people based upon race, national origin, immigration status, or other protected characteristics
  • Granting federal immigration authority to local law enforcement agents
  • Entering agreements to jail people who are facing deportation proceedings
  • Holding people in jail based upon immigration detainers, which are non-binding requests from ICE for local governments to detain people unlawfully without a warrant
  • Using city personnel and resources for federal operations such as ICE raids
  • Allowing federal officials to conduct warrantless immigration searches or arrests in city facilities

The order also allows the public to become more educated on city agencies' involvement in federal immigration enforcement by requiring regular public disclosures. And it requires that local law enforcement agencies create policies for certifying when survivors of certain crimes and human trafficking have been helpful to law enforcement, allowing survivors to apply for special visas to remain safely in the United States.

"Our cities have been faced with a choice – to side with families and public safety, or to bow to threats and division – and Mayor Bhalla's action has put Hoboken on the side of justice today," said Johanna Calle, program coordinator of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, a coalition of more than 35 member organizations dedicated to making New Jersey a welcoming place for all. "When people fear that any interaction with law enforcement could put their loved ones or themselves in jeopardy, people sink into the shadows and lose trust in their government. Hoboken's mayor declared today that the safety and rights of New Jersey residents are the top concern, not carrying out the president's deportation agenda."

The executive order emphasized concern for the well-being of people at risk of deportation and the erosion of trust that can result from melding local law enforcement priorities with federal immigration enforcement.

"Experience around the country has shown that when local police use their resources to enforce federal immigration law, they erode community trust and raise racial profiling concerns. Hoboken's new policy gives vital reassurance that city agencies seek to protect the safety of all members of their community," said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Farrin Anello, who specializes in immigration. "We're proud today that Hoboken has become the latest city in New Jersey to say no to hate and fear."

Hoboken, a major transportation hub with over 50,000 residents, was 7 percent Asian and 15 percent Latino according to the 2010 Census. It is the 34th largest municipality by population in New Jersey, and the fifth largest in Hudson County. Last year in Jersey City, the largest municipality in Hudson County and second largest in the state, Mayor Steven Fulop issued an executive order to make the city fair and welcoming; the city council voted unanimously to express support for the policies. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka signed a fair and welcoming executive order for New Jersey's largest municipality in June 2017.

Although Jersey City and Hoboken have fair and welcoming ordinances, advocates have called for Hudson County to end its 287(g) agreement with ICE, under which corrections officers in Hudson County Detention Center assist with deportation proceedings.

Read the Hoboken executive order in PDF format.