A Syrian-immigrant mayor announced his New Jersey town will not be a sanctuary city for immigrants to illegally reside in the U.S.
Montvale Mayor Michael Ghassali, who is a Syrian-born immigrant, posted a Facebook message on Wednesday stating that mayors should not advocate defying federal policies and that he will not sign an executive order asking his town employees to do so.
“I will not be signing any executive orders that will ask our employees to defy federal laws. A mayor should not be advocating the defiance of federal laws.”
The mayor also clarified that he hopes his position is not misconstrued to say that he is against diversity. “Montvale is not against refugees, against immigrants, against diversity. We are as diverse as they come,” he said.
Related News: New Jersey Muslim Mayor Declares His Borough a Sanctuary
Reportedly, one-fifth of Montvale’s population of 8,000 residents are foreign-born, according to 2015 census. Twenty-two languages are spoken at home, Ghassali said.
Ghassali issued a statement in response to rising pressure from immigration advocacy groups that approached him about making the town a safe haven for illegal immigrants.
NewJersey.com reports that a number of North Jersey towns have either approved or are considering resolutions to become sanctuary cities, which would place limitations on local police cooperating with federal immigration enforcement agents.
Ghassali recalled in an interview this week his experience entering the country at 15 years of age and the hurdles his family faced. He later became a citizen in 1987 and is married to an Iraqi immigrant, says the report.
“I know, firsthand, the vetting system is intense — it’s always been that way. I don’t know how much more intense it could get,” said Ghassali. He added, “I wish the administration spent more time analyzing the current process before issuing such an executive order. They should spend the time to look at the current process before causing havoc among the refugees.”
Many of Ghassali’s family members are refugees or have been killed in the Syrian war. “My whole network is either a refugee or has a family or friend who is a refugee. I feel it. It is very personal. I have to remove emotions out of this if I want to do my job,” he said.
Ghassali also told reporters about his friend who has been in the country illegally for 15 years and maintained that declaring Montvale a sanctuary city would not change the reality of his friend’s situation. “He’s been scared for 15 years,” Ghassali said. “That doesn’t change when a mayor signs an executive order.”
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