2007-02-28 / Letters

Cultural harmony would be worth pursuing in Freehold

"... Freehold would benefit greatly from a community mindset that recognizes the strengths of diversity and the great potential that integration and assimilation presents."

This letter is sent in reaction to the anti-immigrant policies being pursued by the Borough Council and mayor in Freehold Borough, as well as the recent recommendations submitted by the Rental Property Advisory Com-mittee.

Based on reports published by your paper and other media in Monmouth County, it is very clear that the Borough Council and the majority of the Rental Property Advisory Committee is persistently focused on enacting ordinances and policies that have already proven to be costly to the Free-hold taxpayers, and extremely divisive to the community at large.

A much more reasonable and productive approach to these issues can be found in Keyport. In Keyport, the Bor-ough Council opted to aggressively enforce existing ordinances to deal with landlords that are either exploiting immigrants, or otherwise violating the rules of tenanting.

The Keyport council wisely examined the results of similar "immigration relief" measures in other townships, both in New Jersey and nationally, and came to the conclusion that the issue of immigration enforcement is better left to the federal government.

This decision in Keyport was not arrived at easily. It took a substantial community outcry and the participation of leading civil rights organizations to clarify the risks and anti-productive ends that these policies bring about. The proposal in Keyport resulted in the establishment of an advocacy group comprised of diverse community members and civic leaders. The initiative was actually a restart of a program several years ago by police Capt. Thomas Mitchell and Tom Fischer, a Latino community leader.

The results to date are evident in the Keyport Central School's adult English class, and the muster zone where workers gather to gain employment by local contractors.

In the Keyport Central School, the Keyport Cultural Harmony Program has been successful in establishing an English literacy program to help parents learn the language, and be in a position to help their children with their studies and homework.

At the muster zone, immigrant workers have donated their time to work with other community members and with the environmental commission to clean and maintain the area in a manner that is reflective of the community's pride. These achievements are only the beginning.

There are efforts under way to assist immigrants with filing taxes, obtain Individual Tax Identification num-bers, and establishing cross-cultural educational programs.

It is very clear that Freehold would benefit greatly from a community mindset that recognizes the strengths of diversity and the great potential that integration and assimilation presents. If the Freehold governing body and its anti-immigrant focus group invested their time and energy in developing policies and programs that bring about the realization of cultural harmony, they would find that the return on investment would be greater than their current dissonance.

As a member of the Keyport Cultural Harmony Program, I would urge all parties involved in bringing about the community harmony needed in Freehold, to employ the use of tolerance, acceptance, understanding and compassion. There is proof these methods work. Come over to Keyport and see it in action. If you prefer, we'll come to you and help you establish a similar program. Cultural harmony can be easily achieved and the benefits will be an everlasting legacy for our children, our communities and our country.

Angel L. Matos

Keyport Cultural

Harmony Program

Keyport

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