While Governor Murphy is lighting a beacon on immigration for other states to follow, it’s time for him and NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to up their game and further protect the rights of immigrants. The most recent series of incidents in our state, reported in today’s NJ.com article are US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeting legal residents for deportation based on petty crimes committed years ago. “By abandoning the idea of prosecutorial discretion and arresting long-time residents, ICE is breaking up families and terrorizing communities.”
What is happening in the US today is a massively cruel violation of human rights. The UN has informed the US that taking migrant children from parents is illegal and that detention policies here are violating international human rights laws. A UN panel reported “seeing immigrants and asylum seekers held in “punitive conditions” comparable to those of convicted criminals despite their right to seek asylum under international law. Unfortunately, a stipulations in the UN Charter is that the UN may not intervene in the domestic affairs of states.
Nor can we expect Trump nor our federal Justice Department, operating under his orders, to follow international principles or even common decency. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to justify his position, quoted the Bible suggesting that God supports the government in separating immigrant parents from their children. Trump in the meantime endangers Dreamers, children separated from their parents and immigrants in general by using them as pawns in his obsessive desire for $25 Billion to build a useless wall. Both men deserve their own special place in Dante’s Inferno. The preview image is of of a child separated from his family (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images.)
In one of Governor Murphy’s many positive steps (see photo on the left) he signed legislation to provide Dreamers access to state financial tuition aid. Nonetheless in his budget he says he will allocate only $2.1 million to provide legal assistance to those facing detention or deportation. This is woefully insufficient help because for unaccompanied children alone released to families in New Jersey there were 2,268 in 2017 and another 1,053 minors in the first seven months of fiscal year 2018. Arrests by ICE agents surged in New Jersey during fiscal year 2017 with 3,189 arrests a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year. The federal government does not provide public defenders for immigrants, many of whom do not speak English and most of whom lack the funds to hire a lawyer. They are reliant on non-profit legal groups who can handle only a few of them and the state which has not allocated enough funding.
Our NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is also taking supportive steps. He has asked for a federal review of immigration arrests at schools expressing concerns over what he called the “deeply upsetting” arrest of two Indonesian parents after they dropped their children at school.He has joined multi-state lawsuits against Trump’s policies on DACA and Sanctuary cities. He also is beefing up his department’s services to immigrants.
In spite of the paucity of funds for legal defense, Governor Murphy has already displayed leadership in his willingness to cross Trump’s policies and to establish New Jersey as a state which supports decency and immigration rights. However, he lacks enough financial resources and can not do it alone.
Others of us must continue in our own support against these human rights violations. The ACLU/NJ, NJ Alliance for Immigration Justice, and Seth Kaper-Dale, an immigration activist and pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, are just a few outspoken critics against these atrocities. Here is a list of immigration advocates near you that you can reach out to in different NJ cities. We must by all means eradicate this danger to our community and show that in New Jersey there is ‘liberty and justice for all.”