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.

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