‘Riverside Is Going To Be Ours’

Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post, August 20, 2006

The organizer of a prayer rally expected to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of people to town hall today and says that if the township persists with its Illegal Immigration Relief Act, his group will fight back with more than rallies or lawsuits.

“For every immigrant who feels afraid and leaves Riverside, we are going to find an immigrant to volunteer to come live in Riverside,” the Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders, said Friday.

“They will be staying at the homes of Brazilians.”

And they and other Latinos will be working to obtain mortgages and purchase homes, Rivera said, with the help of at least three banks that his organization is speaking with.

“Instead of tenants, there will be owners,” he said, noting that citizenship is not required to purchase property in the U.S.

“Riverside is going to be ours,” he said.

Rivera’s remarks, today’s rally and a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Newark challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance were the result of the township committee enacting last month a measure that seeks to punish landlords who rent to or employers who hire illegal immigrants.

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Mayor Charles Hilton estimates the number of illegal immigrants in his town, many if not most of them from Brazil, at anywhere from 1,500 to 3,500.

How people who aren’t supposed to be here can protest is beyond her, Rendfrey said.

“They’re here illegally,” she said. “They don’t have the right to say what they want or don’t want.”

But opponents of the ordinance, such as Rivera, contend that its supporters are disingenuous in saying their goal is dedication to the law.

“They disguise it as a solution to the immigration problem,” the Methodist minister said, “but what they are really expressing is a racist and discriminatory attitude against Latinos.”

Gary Christopher, the chairman of the local planning board, disagrees.

Respect for the law is a key part of what makes this country great, he said in an interview shortly after the ordinance was passed. He said he believes it’s time that message was reinforced.

{snip}

Christopher sees nothing wrong with “making it uncomfortable to be illegal.”

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Riverside, New Jersey—Opponents of a local law cracking down on illegal immigrants clashed on Sunday with residents chanting “go home” as both sides proclaimed their loyalty to the United States.

An estimated 300 to 400 people gathered outside the town hall to protest a recently passed ordinance that bans hiring or renting to illegal immigrants, who are accused of overburdening local services such as schools and hospitals without paying taxes.

The protesters, representing the largely Brazilian immigrant community of Riverside, were heckled by about 500 counter-demonstrators kept at bay by police on the other side of the town’s main intersection.

As immigration supporters accused the town’s council of racism, opponents chanted “USA, USA” and waved placards saying “Scram” and “Stop Illegal Immigration.” A passing pickup truck drew loud cheers by flying a Confederate flag with the motto “The South Will Rise Again.”

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Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, called the Riverside law “racist.” He criticized Mayor Charles Hilton by saying his initiative in passing the law was equivalent to the Confederate flag being flown by the counter-demonstrators.

Across the street, several people held placards with pictures of Rivera, accusing him of racism and saying “Take Your Trash Elsewhere.”

Opponents’ chants of “go home” were countered by calls of “we are home” from immigrants’ supporters. Demonstrators on both sides waved the U.S. flag and claimed their allegiance to the United States.

{snip}

Lindsey Sickler, 19, said she supported the ordinance because the illegal immigrants were using local services without paying taxes, and their children are driving down school test scores because they can’t speak English.

“If we were in their country and doing the same thing, they would be trying to get us out,” she said.

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