New Jersey's illegal immigrant population has grown so dramatically in size and impact in the last decade that the League of Municipalities has formed a task force to study the community and its effect on the state in general.
Advocates believe New Jersey could have close to 1 million illegal immigrants. The underground community -- which stretches from the northernmost Bergen County towns to the southern tip of New Jersey in Cape May -- has overwhelmed some areas of the state, with up to 200 day laborers crowding streets in places like Bergenfield, Palisades Park and Morristown each day.
"The buck on immigration law is supposed to stop with the federal government," said the task force chairman, Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes. "But it's in our local communities that illegal immigrants go to schools and get mended at our hospitals, so in the absence of any action from the federal government, it is incumbent upon us to delineate options and create ordinances that deal with the impact of this population."
The task force has met once, but its plans are ambitious. It will look at crowding, health and safety issues and the cost to municipalities of providing education, law enforcement, health care and other services to "substantial numbers of individuals who do not pay taxes."
Bill Dressel Jr., executive director of the league, said the task force must decide how to balance the rights of illegal immigrants against the quality of life issues that affect all state residents.
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