Indian American Ravi Bhalla already made history by winning the election to become mayor of Hoboken, N.J.
The formality of being sworn in as the first Sikh mayor in the state became official Jan. 1.
However, 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.
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.
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."
Additionally, the 43-year-old 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.
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.
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."
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.
“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.”
Bhalla also announced he’ll open an Office of Constituent Services, which will be fully staffed to help the residents of Hoboken with problems big and small, adding his pledge of service, not just through his faith, but now public office, the report added (see earlier India-West story here).
In the earlier interview with India-Wet, Bhalla said that one of the first projects he will take on as mayor is the “Rebuild by Design” initiative, which will use a $230 million federal flood protection grant to protect residents of the “square mile” city from severe weather events, such as 2012’s “Superstorm Sandy,” which left more than 80 percent of the town’s 55,000 residents in standing water.
The severe storm wreaked more than $100 million in property and infrastructure damage.
Bhalla said he hopes to be the “infrastructure mayor,” especially in the mass-transit sector. Approximately 58 percent of the city’s residents use public transport on a daily basis. The mayor-elect said he hopes to add more frequent bus and train lines, and to make ferry travel to New York less expensive.