TOMS RIVER-Maurice Hill and the Toms River Township Council were broadsided by dissent in a primarily Republican stronghold in New Jersey while trying to pass an “Anti-Sanctuary State” resolution that was different than those passed in other nearby towns.
Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Laurie Hyruk both noted the inaccuracies of the proposed resolution which first incorrectly identified the Immigrant Trust Directive as being supported by the state legislature. In fact, the directive was presented by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and “blessed” by Governor Phil Murphy. No formal vote on the matter was ever taken by state elected leaders.
Both Turnbach and Hyruk said the ordinance’s inaccuracies should be addressed before the council voted.
“The terminology is not worded correctly,” Turnbach said.
While the intent of the ordinance by council Republicans was believed to be solely to allow law enforcement officers to cooperate with ICE, the far-reaching resolution went beyond.
Maurice Hill claimed incorrectly that under the Immigrant Trust Directive, illegal immigrants would not have to provide 6 points of ID.
According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, immigrants and citizens alike must pass the 6 point ID system.
Community religious leaders spoke out against the Toms River version of the resolution.
Many said the council’s action was nothing more than an election season partisan political stunt in the final weeks of a flailing campaign by township splinter Republicans led by Maurice Hill, who himself is not a member of the Toms River Republican Club.
Nearby towns have passed similar ordinances but limited the language of the resolutions to allow local law enforcement officers and correctional institutions to contact ICE in the event of criminal activities by illegal aliens.
According to the U.S. Census, Toms River’s Hispanic population is 8.5%, Asians, 4.1%, African Americans 3.3% and 87.9% caucasian.
Joseph Champagne, former councilman of South Toms River said, “I am an immigrant, I am from Haiti.”
Champagne said Haiti was initially created as a sanctuary country to provide a home for Jews after World War II oppressed by Nazi Germany.
“That’s what human beings do,” Champagne, an attorney who practices immigration law said. “No politicians. You’re all comfortable saying we don’t want these people here, but once you start seeing you in them, you will change your approach.”
Champagne said like Haiti, America was created as a Sanctuary nation to escape the tyranny of Great Brittain.
“Why is today the word sanctuary has such a negative connotation?” he added. “Sanctuary means a sacred place. We have to start seeing these people as human beings, just as the Haitian people saw the Jewish people as human beings. This is not a political issue, it’s a human issue.”
Stacey Gregg, who traveled to Toms River called the resolution a hate law.
“People will call you a racist town,” she added. “It’s not even written properly. Your stereotyping, your cruelness and your inhumanity is showing. You are totally clueless and have no comprehension of what you are voting on.”
Connie Pascal, 71 of Toms River said the resolution is completely unnecessary.
“I’ve lived here for over 40 years, I’ve never heard people talking about this in the street,” he said. “Instead go tell your neighbors we have a community that cares.
Jasmine (last name withheld), a student at Toms River High School South said she is a young conservative Republican but told the council that if the resolution passed it would damage relationships. The Toms River High School student also took a swipe at the Toms River Republican establishment, “I don’t know who’s in charge.”
At one point Hill became hostile and confrontational with a speaker and had to be verbally restrained by Council President George Wittman.
“Mo, let it go,” Wittman said after the man said the ordinance was borne out of racism.
Terrance Turnbach requested a motion to rescind the resolution, but it failed to get the needed votes.
The motion to pass the resolution passed with Huryk and Turnbach voting no. Maria Maruca abstained. Hill, Rodrick, Kubiel and Wittman voted yes.
During the vote, residents began chanting, “Immigrants are welcome here.”
George Wittman asked that the man be forcibly removed by police officers.
“Police officer, please remove this man, he doesn’t want to sit down,” Wittman said.
Despite multiple calls for assistance by township Republicans to come out to show support in favor of the resolution, few, if any did and the nearly two-hour public session was dominated by residents who opposed the measure.