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.”

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