While not going so far as to label themselves a sanctuary county, Union County, New Jersey has a long history of supporting immigrants, documented or not. With President Trump’s recent defunding of localities that are considered sanctuaries, Union County, while not yet in danger of losing federal grants, is determining how to best balance maintaining their support of immigrants again the backdrop of potential financial losses.
Union County historically has assisted immigrants. The county recognizes that immigrants make a significant contribution to the economy and the welfare of the area. For example, immigrants add “billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs” to the state’s economy and not only do unauthorized immigrants pay taxes, they excel educationally (New Americans, 2015, n.p.). SO, there are motivating factors behind Union County’s support of immigrants.
One of the most notable strategies that Union County residents organized with the goal of providing services and support to the undocumented immigrants in the area was to open an Immigrant Advocacy and Naturalization Center. Serving the nearly 52,000 legal immigrants as well as the undocumented immigrants, this center aims to help immigrants gain legal status, it offers translations services, and it gives citizenship prep classes.
Another area where undocumented immigrants received support from the citizens of Union County was reported in 2015 when citizens voted to allow unauthorized immigrants to get a driver’s license. The Union County residents saw the benefit of having trained, licensed drivers in vehicles that were insured and registered, but beyond that, they also noted that “these immigrants need to go to work; they need to take their children to school . . . . They live in fear of being stopped and not having a license” (Hayden, 2015, n.p.).
The strength of Union County stems from its people; the citizens in the communities of this county understand the integral importance of all of its residents, documented or not, and they stand unified in ensuring access to needed services and civil justice for all of the county’s residents.
- New Americans in New Jersey. (2015). American Immigration Council. Retrieved from https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/new-americans-new-jersey
- Hayden, T. (2015, May 29). Union County is first to back driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. New Jersey Advance Media. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2015/05/union_county_backs_drivers_licenses_for_immigrants.html