Syrian immigrant mayor says town won't be a sanctuary city

MONTVALE, N.J. (AP) - A Syrian immigrant mayor says his New Jersey town will not be a sanctuary city for immigrants illegally living in the United States.

Montvale Mayor Michael Ghassali said in message posted on Facebook that mayors should not advocate defying federal laws and he will not sign any executive orders asking the town's employees to do so.

The Republican who ran for mayor as an independent told The Record he hopes his position is not misconstrued as an indication he's against diversity.

"My whole network is either a refugee or has a family or friend who is a refugee. I feel it. It is very personal," Ghassali said.

But the mayor acknowledged that he must remove emotion and personal feelings to do his job the right way.

The Trump administration said Tuesday that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an immigration enforcement priority.

Trump issued an executive order suspending travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries last month that has been blocked by a federal court ruling. The Republican has said he plans to revise the measure.

Ghassali said Trump's administration should have spent more time studying how immigration currently works in the U.S. before making changes.

"They should spend the time to look at the current process before causing havoc among the refugees," he said.

Ghassali became a citizen in 1987 and is married to an Iraqi immigrant.

"Montvale is not against refugees, against immigrants, against diversity," Ghassali said. "We are as diverse as they come."