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Week of 10.19.07

Immigration on Main Street

With Washington stuck in place on illegal immigration policy, local governments are taking the matter into their own hands, shifting the cultural and political battleground from Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street, USA. NOW catches up with two New Jersey mayors who have sharply different —and politically surprising —approaches to dealing with undocumented immigrants in their communities.

Morristown mayor Don Cresitello, a Democrat, wants to invoke a Department of Homeland Security provision that would grant his police department federal enforcement powers in dealing with undocumented immigrants charged with criminal activity. "I'm not suggesting that all of these people are involved in criminal activities," Mayor Cresitello tells NOW, "But for every one who is here illegally that's one more that didn't need to be here. We have enough problems with our own crime."

An hour away, Hightstown mayor Bob Patten has turned his little town into a so-called "Sanctuary City"—a place where efforts are made to protect the civil rights of law-abiding undocumented immigrants. "We don't ask people what their immigration status is now," says Mayor Patten. "We simply want to treat everybody justly, fairly. There's a due process."

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NOW's David Brancaccio visits the mayors and members of their immigrant communities to uncover the impact these measures are having, and the passions that fuel them.

Web Extra: NOW: Extra Enforcement?
Learn more about federal immigration enforcement powers sought by state and local officials.

Related Links:

National Immigration Law Center: Chart of "Sanctuary" Towns and Cities (pdf)

NOW: America's View of Illegal Immigrants

NOW: Latinos Now: Watch this town-hall meeting hosted by Maria Hinojosa about the nation's immigration impasse and what impact the immigration movement is having on America.

NOW: Be Our Guest

NOW: Alien Nation?

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