October 26, 2006

Latino Pastors Respond to the Signing of the Border Fence Bill:

One Step Towards Immigration Reform and Still More to Go

Washington, DC- Today, President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Members of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) applaud the President for the quick action he has taken to secure this first step to what we hope is part of an effective immigration reform package that will include comprehensive measures. The signing of "EL MURO" (border fence) Act as a way to secure the border and to curve illegal immigration into the United States.

We recognize that this is indeed a necessary step to ensuring that our country avoids having millions of undocumented workers in the United States in the future without visas that allow them to work and live in this country lawfully and without fear. We commend President Bush for sticking to his promise of working to secure the border. We have faith that the President will work with members of Congress to agree to a workable solution that will at the very minimum, create temporary work visas that will address the estimated 12 million undocumented people who are in the United States today.

“Cities across America are trying to pass their own immigration laws because Congress has not provided the proper laws and enforcement. This creates chaos in local communities who want to address issues of employment and housing. If local officials had the necessary federal laws to work with, local leaders will be more effective in supportingthe enforcement of these laws and this eliminates the injustices that can happen as a result of these broad and disfunctional local laws,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“CONLAMIC members are very pleased with this first step, recognizing that it is necessary to modernize, reinforce and reduce the pressure on our borders. We would like to see the members of Congress return after the elections to work on a solution for the 38% of undocumented Latino Christian members of our churches who are Pastors, mothers, fathers, children and a vital and contributing part of our community and this nation,” said Rev. Rivera.

October 21, 2006

A Rapid Response by Hispanic Pastors & Leaders
Stops Proposed Keyport Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

Keyport, NJ –On Monday, October 16, 2006, local residents and Latino Pastors and Leaders who are members of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) held a press conference in front of the Keyport Municipal Court building to denounce the ordinance proposed by city officials that would make renting property to undocumented immigrants in Keyport a crime, punishable by hefty fines to landlords.

“The press conference was excellent. The media was present, local Latino residents and other supporters stood united with Latino Pastors,” said Rev. Rivera. “The best part is that the Mayor and the City Council President came out and both endorsed our position and gave me assurance that the ordinance will not have the votes.”

The question raised by Latino leaders was why Keyport officials were creating a new ordinance instead of enforcing existing housing occupancy laws, leading the community to believe that officials were trying to drive out unwanted immigrants. According to Councilman Wedick, the purpose of this ordinance is to curb overcrowding problems and avoid possible exploitation of those who live in crowded conditions in properties within the borough.

“In order to defend our community we must keep a united front, inform city officials in all New Jersey towns that they must enforce local property and employment laws rather than try to take federal immigration laws into their own hands. If these leaders are truly not looking to increase discrimination, violate the freedom and right to privacy of local residents/citizens, and harm local business owners, then they will avoid this issue altogether or in the case of Keyport Officials, halt these anti-immigrant ordinances for good,” said Rev. Rivera.

A public hearing was held Tuesday, October 17th in Keyport in which Mayor John J. Merla announced that the housing ordinance would be tabled indefinitely.

“City Officials such as Mayor Charles Hilton in Riverside Township, who choose to move forward with such an ordinance, clearly do so to drive out the unwanted residents from their towns. This creates an atmosphere of distrust, fear, profiling and arms those few but vocal and hostile residents with the tools to increase discrimination in the community. These officials will have the full force our community on their hands, standing up and fighting through the courts and at hearings and rallies,” said Rev. Rivera.

In a letter to Rev. Rivera, Carlos Maldonado wrote, “The Organización Pro-Unidad Puertorriqueña De Keyport would like to thank you for the support and the impact you made during your press conference. This has prohibited those trying to drive the Latino community out of Keyport. We will continue to work with the Keyport Hispanic community to ensure the landlords are up to code.”

October 14, 2006

Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Unite to Oppose Anti-Immigrant Ordinance in Keyport Borough

Leaders Intend to Keep Up the Fight throughout New Jersey to Protect Immigrants

Keyport, New Jersey –On Monday, October 16, 2006, Local residents and Latino Pastors and Leaders from around the state who are members of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) will hold a press conference at 11a.m., in front of the Municipal Court building, located at 70 West Front Street, Keyport, NJ 07735. Latino Pastors and leaders are joining forces once again to address yet another proposed anti-immigrant ordinance adding to the troubling list of cities whose officials are trying to enforce federal laws illegally. Keyport’s Mayor, John J. Merla and Councilman Joseph Wedick have proposed a new ordinance that would make renting property to undocumented immigrants in Keyport a crime, punishable by hefty fines to landlords.

According to Councilman Wedick, the purpose of this ordinance is to curb overcrowding problems and avoid possible exploitation of those who live in crowded conditions in properties within the borough.

In a letter to the Mayor Merla and Councilman Wedick, Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC wrote, “We strongly oppose your position. This ordinance will divide the Keyport community, give those who are racists a tool to hurt members of your community, violate the freedom and right to privacy of local residents/citizens, and will harm the economy and well being of Keyport. I speak from firsthand experience in the towns of Riverside and Hazelton.”

Rev. Rivera also wrote, “Every reasonable effort should be made by Keyport officials to enforce existing zoning and occupancy laws, which is where the problem of overcrowding lies. By instead creating an ordinance that is solely focused on housing, you are making an anti-immigrant statement with racist overtones.”

Can it be that this issue has is a result of concerns about the illegal immigration? Pastors and other leaders intend to inform officials in Keyport that illegal immigration is the responsibility of the federal government.

According to the 2,000 U.S. Census, Keyport has 7,264 households, and 1,798 families residing in the borough. The racial makeup of the borough is 85% White, 7% African American, and 11% are Hispanic/Latino. There were 3,400 housing units in the borough.

CONLAMIC leaders have reviewed statements made by Councilman Wedick and what the possible intentions really are with this ordinance. They question whether the reasons for it are to protect people from being exploited by property owners or if is to drive out unwanted residents from Keyport, which will lead to an atmosphere of distrust, fear, profiling and arming those few but very vocal and hostile residents with the tools to increase discrimination in the community.

“I concur with local Keyport residents who have stated that immigrants, including the undocumented are vital contributors to the local economy and well being of the community.

Unfortunately, in Keyport and throughout the nation, there is always more focus on the few problems rather than the outnumbering benefits of immigration.

“Requiring residents to prove their legal residency/citizenship in order to rent housing is segregation, which is contrary to your recent public statement. Your approach is false and misleading,” said Rev. Rivera.

This ordinance and its hurtful consequences are tactics that Latino Pastors and leaders object to most vigorously because they believe that it undeniably leads to the increase anti-immigrant sentiment. Inexcusable treatment of immigrants, people of color and the violation of constitutional rights will lead to the same difficulties that have occurred in Riverside and Hazelton.

“The most satisfactory solution to the problem of overcrowding in the housing of Keyport is for the council to develop effective code enforcement laws by city officials,” said Rev. Rivera.

CONLAMIC is prepared to file suit in federal court to request an immediate injunction against this ordinance if it is passed next week by the Keyport council at a hearing Wednesday, October 18th at the Municipal court building. More details about the hearing will be available at Monday’s press conference.