NJ Senate votes to condemn Trump’s immigration-related executive orders
A divided state Senate voted Monday for a resolution condemning three executive orders related to immigration signed by President Donald Trump in the first week of his administration.
Two of the orders direct the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and withhold federal grant money from sanctuary cities. The resolution notes those orders seeks to empower state and local law enforcement to help perform immigration functions.
The other order is the one of the center of protests and legal battles. It would bar all Syrian refugees, suspends all refugee admissions for four months and blocks all entry for three months for people from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“The actions of President Trump threaten families within our communities who call New Jersey home. They threaten our core values as Americans,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex. “As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to protect all of New Jersey, to be a voice for those living in our communities. Silence these days is not an option.”
Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson, estimated that 20 percent of the residents of Union City, where he also serves as mayor, are not legally in the country. The city’s estimated population is around 68,000, so that would be more than 13,000 residents.
“These are good, hard-working people. To ban people on the color of their skin, on their religious background, on ethnicity is a disgrace. It's a disgrace,” Stack said.
The resolution passed 21-11, meaning it got the minimum 21 votes needed. All the ‘yes’ votes were cast by Democrats. One Democrat voted against it: Sen. Jeff Van Drew. Three Republicans who were present didn’t vote: Sens. Diane Allen, Kip Bateman and Jennifer Beck. Five senators were absent.
Ashraf Latif, president of the NIA Masjid & Community Center in Newark, thanked lawmakers for the vote.
“Because of everyone who has risen and supported, it has given us so much strength,” Latif said. “We never thought the time would come in our state when we have to pass such a resolution. It seems so obnoxious. But reality is here.”
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., R-Union, said the state Senate should focus on New Jersey-centric issues. GOP senators were thwarted in a procedural vote when they sought to force votes on bills related to pensions, health benefits and transportation costs.
“I think that some of the arguments have ignored the reality is that many prior presidential administrations of both parties have taken similar immigration actions to those recently recommended,” Kean said.
“Let's focus on the solutions that are important to the people of the state of New Jersey today and going forward and we can come together as a citizen and as a people,” he said.
Democrats blasted the idea that the resolution wasn’t a matter of importance to discuss at the Statehouse.
“Anyone here who says we should ignore the actions taking place in Washington and the impact they have on our residents, on our state and our counties and in our country should really do some soul-searching,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
A second immigration-related resolution passed 22-10 that encouraged schools and colleges to continue to not share information about undocumented students. Sen. Jennifer Beck voted for that proposal. Sen. Anthony Bucco, who voted against the other resolution, didn’t vote. All other votes were the same.
“Our schools and institutions of higher learning should be safe spaces for learning and the personal information of students, families and staff must remain confidential,” said Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex.
“I get phone calls every day from frightened mothers and they are not sure if they should send their children to school because they are not sure that when their children return home they may return home to a house with no parents,” she said.
Sen. Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, the schools superintendent in North Bergen, said schools can’t ask students for passports or other proof of their immigration status.
“If someone were to come up to the school and ask if that child is legal or not, the school system has no knowledge of it whatsoever. So within our state, our children are being protected right now,” Sacco said.
Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said the rule of law distinguishes the United States “from Third World banana republics” and that it’s dangerous to encourage local officials to ignore it, even for intentions such as preserving families.
“Any local official or state officials who refuses to accept their responsibility under the rule of law, in my view, should be ousted from office never allowed to run again and perhaps be prosecuted,” Cardinale said.
Gill said the resolution urged schools and colleges to continue to follow current policies and not to change course regardless of future federal policies or executive action.
Sen. Samuel Thompson, R-Middlesex, said lawmakers can calm worried constituents by telling them accurately that Trump hasn’t proposed asking schools to identify undocumented students.
“The best thing you can do is to allay their concerns,” Thompson said. “Nobody has a proposal out there, and it would get nowhere, any proposal to just go out and find every undocumented aliens in this country and send them out of the country. There is no such plan. There's no such effort underway.”