Ravi Bhalla, the first Sikh Mayor in any American city, was sworn in as the mayor of Hoboken in the state of New Jersey on January 1st. The 43-year-old new mayor, an Indian-American born in New Jersey, has said he plans on prioritizing infrastructure, commuting and open space.
US Senator Cory Booker presided over the ceremony late Monday. Booker stated, he was proud to be there because his election was a victory for the principle and ideals of the United States.
Bhalla, the 39th mayor of Hoboken, didn’t use the occasion to just celebrate his historic election win. Instead, he used it as a platform to let community members and would-be visitors to the Mile Square City know that his city is friendly to all.
Bhalla said that he heard about racially-motivated attacks against Indian-Americans in Hoboken in the eighties when he was growing up in New Jersey. He says he is proud to see how far the city has come since then.
As his first order of business as mayor, Bhalla signed an executive order declaring his city “fair and welcoming,” in what appears to be a direct response to President Donald Trump’s administration. Bhalla succeeds Dawn Zimmer, who did not seek re-election and supported Bhalla on the campaign who fought back as the target of racially charged fliers.
Bhalla signed the order with many local officials, including Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante, looking on. Ferrante will issue a police directive to implement the policies set forth in the order, the report said.
The 12-page order says no city employee can ask any individual about their citizenship or immigration status; bars federal immigration agents from accessing municipal facilities or databases; and establishes a Fair and Welcoming City Commission that will focus on immigrant issues, among others, NJ.com reported.
“The Hoboken we know and love was built by immigrants and today is sustained by immigrants,” Bhalla said in a statement. “This first executive order is a reflection of our quintessential American values and sends an unmistakable message that Hoboken is a place that welcomes all who are ready, willing and able to contribute to our great city.”
Bhalla’s order requires the city to keep track of records related to immigration-related requests made by federal officials, including the number of immigration detainer requests or administrative warrants received by Hoboken.
Amol Sinha, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, in calling the order extremely significant, told NJ.com that “It allows Hoboken to live up to its potential of being a truly welcoming city.”
“This past election was a model of diversity showcasing for New Jersey and America a city that cares less about who you love, where you came from, what your gender is, where you worship than they care about your ability to take on the challenges ahead for our city,” Bhalla said, according to an NJTV report. “So while the mark of the moral universe may be long, there is no doubt that here in Hoboken, it bends firmly toward justice.”