Baraka, defiant on Texas ruling halting Obama immigration order, declares Newark “a free zone”


NEWARK – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, hours after a federal judge in Texas temporarily halted U.S. President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration late Monday night, said that the administration of New Jersey’s largest city would stand by the president’s move.

“We understood that there would be some kind of barriers put in place to try to prevent [Obama] from sheltering some five million undocumented Americans that could benefit from this. I don’t think locally it’s going to slow us down a bit,” said Baraka on Tuesday in comments to the press just before hosting a round table of urban mayors on immigration reform at Essex County College. “We’re going to more forward with our plans to try to bring our undocumented community into safety here. We’re a free zone over here in Newark.”

Baraka’s comments came shortly after Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Brownsville, blocked the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced in November that would provide work permits and protection from deportation for as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

A total of 26 states, led by Texas, filed a federal lawsuit to stop Obama’s executive action. In his ruling, Hanen said that the Obama administration had not complied with the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for the White House to allow for a longer notification and comment period before taking action.

Yet Baraka, flanked by Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz and Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp at the conclusion of the round table, said that Newark is working with other New Jersey cities to offer undocumented immigrants protection regardless of the Texas ruling.

“We know that the president’s executive order can only be made into a reality with the support of mayors across the country. In Newark, we support expanding rights to [undocumented] parents who have children that are here lawfully. We also support expanding rights to children who have come over as immigrants to make sure that they have safety and security while they are here in the United States,” Baraka said.

Stating that Obama’s executive order had “economic, social and moral benefits,” Baraka emphasized that Newark was pushing forward with a program to issue municipal identification cards, following an initiative recently instituted in New York City that allows undocumented immigrants access to basic services as well as keep track of the growing immigrant population. Baraka said that he wants to have a municipal ID card program in place in Newark by July 1.

“Our hope is that the cities around the state begin to adopt what we’re doing here, because they know it’s the right thing to do, ” Baraka said, saying he is also working on similar programs with other urban mayoral allies around New Jersey, including Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. “When our residents travel from Newark to other parts of the state they will also be protected and recognized.

“We stand with the majority of Americans, and the majority of the people of the world,” Baraka added. “We believe that this is a country of immigrants, and we’re going to make sure that it continues to be a country of immigrants.” Baraka, defiant on Texas ruling halting Obama immigration order, declares Newark “a free zone”