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Pallone Opposes Federal Immigration Policies

By Ron Miskoff

KEYPORT – Rep. Frank Pallone, D-6 th District, this week praised local officials who he said stood up to federal policies which would have essentially turned police into agents for immigration enforcement.

“It’s just not the job of local officers,” said Pallone in an annual meeting he usually holds with area journalists around this time of year. The meeting was staged at the International House of Pancakes restaurant in Keyport. Pallone’s district covers parts of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, including Perth Amboy and South Amboy.

In a wide-ranging discussion with seven members of the media, Pallone backed efforts of local officials who have spoken out against federal policy in the form of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and similar groups which have tried to encourage local police and law-enforcement officers to assist in finding and arresting illegal immigrants.

One of those officials who rejected federal overtures is Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, and Pallone mentioned her along with others who have told ICE not to use police for finding and arresting aliens.
“Middlesex County has done a great job in this regard,” Pallone said.

But in discussing immigration as dictated by the Trump Administration, Pallone said Trump’s hard-line attitude about immigration has kept down the number of legal immigrants as well.

As Pallone travels around, he said he gets complaints from business owners who, in the past, routinely hired legal immigrants. Now, they say, they have a much smaller pool of legal workers.

“Factories, restaurants and agriculture can’t get people,” he said.
Many hourly employees at New Jersey shore concessions and stores during the summer months often have come from central and eastern European nations. Pallone’s district covers several of these shore towns.

A controversy has existed surrounding this issue for many months, especially since Donald Trump assumed the presidency. In some cases, ICE enforcement officers have been said to go to county courthouses to wait for illegal aliens to appear in court on unrelated charges and then arrest them. Pallone especially praised Middlesex County for speaking out against this policy.

Some mayors and other local officials have used the term “sanctuary city” to describe a locale where local police are on the record against helping ICE to find and arrest aliens.

In a meeting in Perth Amboy last January, Pallone said that cooperation between federal and local officials is “voluntary.” Diaz said she instructed Perth Amboy police not to act as federal immigration officers because she felt such a policy nurtured mistrust of public officials and especially police.

Frank Pallone, center, at the news conference held at the International House of Pancakes in Keyport. He criticized President Trump for his stance on racism.

Trump was the center of discussions with reporters at the meeting with Pallone. Pallone is angered by Trump’s policies over a whole range of topics, including the president’s failure to unequivocally condemn the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. Pallone said that local religious leaders should speak out against Trump’s failure to condemn the racist right.

“I did not appreciate his speech,” Pallone said of Trump’s response to the incident two weeks ago where a demonstrator was killed allegedly by a member of the extreme right.

“He failed to unite us when he said both sides are equal,” Pallone said.

Switching to Trump’s proposal to continue the war in Afghanistan, Pallone said, “He was persuaded by the generals. He made a mistake in changing his mind.”

Pallone was referring to Trump’s unambiguous statements on the campaign trail in 2016 to get the United States out of the war in Afghanistan. Now Trump has reversed his policy.

Pallone also had objections to Trump’s failure to support his own trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Pallone said the Trump has done little to get it through Congress. Essentially the plan — a series of bills before Congress — would improve roads, highways, bridges, railroads and other property that the United States pays for and works with state governments to repair, build and maintain.

Pallone himself is the sponsor of a bill he introduced last May called LIFT (Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America) that would pay for improvements to broadband, drinking water, healthcare, the electric grid, brownfield redevelopment and renewable energy. Pallone is seeking $170 billion through his committee, Energy and Commerce, where he serves as the ranking member.

Pallone’s frustration was evident in his dismay at Trump’s failure to support legislation that would improve the nation’s overall infrastructure.

“We could fix the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the infrastructure and tax reform” if Trump would get behind improving the nation, Pallone said.

On other issues, Pallone said:

• U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.,J., who is about to go to trial for corruption, is not guilty, and the trial which just finished jury selection in Newark will show that. “I am hopeful that he’s found not guilty,” said Pallone. “I think he’s a great senator and has done a great job and will be vindicated.”

• Opiate addiction is critical in New Jersey, and Pallone praised work to help users and those who overdose in Monmouth County. He noted a law passed in 2016 that made it easier for police to use NARCAN to help overdosers.

• Despite the rough-and-tumble attitude that Republicans and Democrats show toward each other, “a lot of bi-partisan things get done.” For example, the Food and Drug Reauthorization Act passed with barely a whisper in the news, but it contains many helpful changes to federal policy, including the right of citizens to buy devices like hearing aids at deeply discounted prices and the ability to purchase generic drugs earlier in the approval process.

• Essentially, Pallone said, Trump is “repeating the isolation” of 100 years ago. “It’s wrong,” he said. “I don’t want to get back to that. It was a dark period in our history.”

 

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