Elected officials on immigrant family separations

Local Dems oppose policy; GOP candidates silent

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  • John McCann, Republican candidate for House of Representatives from New Jersey's 5th District

  • Mikie Sherrill, Democratic candidate for House of Representatives from New Jersey's 11th District

  • Jay Webber, Republican candidate for House of Representatives from New Jersey's 11th District

  • Josh Gottheimer, incumbent Democratic candidate for House of Representatives from New Jersey's 5th District

By Joseph Picard

— The two Democrats seeking to represent Sussex County residents in the House of Representatives have joined the growing national chorus of politicians from both parties calling for an end to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the southern border.

The two Republicans who will oppose them in the November elections have not, as of this writing, taken a public position on the controversial issue.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ5), who is running for re-election, issued a statement this week.

“We live in the greatest country in the world, and we cannot sit idly by as children are being torn from their parents’ arms. I join voices on both sides of the aisle in calling for an end to this practice, which doesn’t benefit our national security and goes against our shared Jersey values — and our American values. I will keep fighting to achieve a bipartisan solution that protects our borders without ripping families apart and lives up to our ideals as Americans.”

On Tuesday, Gottheimer joined a House resolution condemning the approach to separating children from their parents at the border, and called on Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to bring a bipartisan immigration bill to the floor for a vote.

“As the father of a nine- and six-year-old, I cannot sit idly by as children are being torn from their parents’ arms,” Gottheimer said. “We should be upholding our American values by pursuing a common sense solution to keep families together, protecting our borders, and fixing a broken system. As Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, I will continue to advocate for the immigration, DACA, and border security solution we put forward. Children should never be held hostage from their parents.”

John McCann, the Republican candidate who will face off against Gottheimer for the seat, says in his campaign material that he is a staunch supporter of President Trump’s immigration policies.

But he has not taken a position on the specific policy of immigrant family separation. McCann has not responded to a request for his position on this specific policy.

New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District includes 19 municipalities in Sussex County: Andover Borough, Andover Township, Branchville, Frankford Township, Franklin Borough, Fredon Township, Green Township, Hamburg, Hampton Township, Hardyston Township, Lafayette Township, Montague Township, Newton, Sandyston Township, Stillwater Township, Sussex, Vernon Township, Walpack Township and Wantage Township

Mikie Sherrill, the Democrat running for the open seat in the state’s 11th Congressional District, has also come out in opposition to the separation policy.

“Separating children from their parents at the border is wrong,” she said. “As a mother, I can imagine too well the trauma that it is causing. Not just to the parents and children, but to our border control agents.

“We can move to improve our security without losing our compassion. We can fix our immigration system without inflicting cruelty upon children. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be standing up to end forced separation and working toward comprehensive immigration reform.”

Sherrill’s Republican opponent for the 11th District seat, NJ Assemblyman Jay Webber, has also supported Trump’s immigration policies, but has so far remained silent on the immigrant family separation issue. Webber did not respond to requests for his position on this specific issue.

The man these candidates are striving to replace, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), who is retiring, issued a statement Tuesday condemning the family separation policy.

“I oppose the cruel ‘zero tolerance’ policy that is separating children from their parents near our southern border,” Frelinghuysen said. “Until a humane solution is developed, this policy should be suspended.”

New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District includes five Sussex County municipalities: Byram Township, Hopatcong, Ogdensburg, Sparta Township and Stanhope.

Moreover, the Democratic administration of NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has declared opposition to the president’s separation policy.

NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal this week demanded that federal officials halt the practice of separating immigrant families, stating that the policy is undermining community trust and hurting law enforcement efforts.

“What’s happening on the border is having a direct impact on what’s happening in New Jersey,” said Attorney General Grewal. “As a career prosecutor, I’ve seen that law enforcement works best when it has the trust of local communities, and the heartlessness of the Administration’s family separation policy is undermining the trust we’ve worked so hard to build. That makes it less likely crime victims and witnesses will come forward to work with law enforcement and that, in turn, makes our communities less safe.”

Grewal is among 21 Attorneys General throughout the country who sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen this week opposing the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of jailing immigrant parents who’ve been detained at border crossings — even parents seeking asylum in the U.S. — and forcibly separating their children.

The multi-state letter describes the policy as “draconian,” “inhumane,” and “contrary to American values.”

“Put simply,” the letter states, “the deliberate separation of children and their parents as part of an overall design to deter individuals from seeking lawful asylum in America is wrong.”

“The Trump policy of separating families, housing children in cages, and preventing members of Congress from even seeing the conditions in which migrant families are housed defies any sense of logic and human decency,” Gov. Murphy said on Monday.

On Tuesday, Murphy announced he is signing an executive order to “prevent any state resources from being used to help federal authorities separate families.” Over 20 other governors, including the Republican governors of Massachusetts and Maryland, have signed similar orders.

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