Op-Ed: Immigration Orders Fly in Face of American Values

This op-ed appeared in the February 1, 2017 edition of the Asbury Park Press.

Instead of creating an environment of inclusion and respect towards immigrants, President Trump has – with a few strokes of his pen – put New Jersey families at risk, put billions of taxpayer dollars needlessly on the line and turned America from a country welcoming “poor, huddled masses” to one dangerously shutting its doors. The president’s actions – if fully implemented – will also seriously damage New Jersey’s economy.

Building a wall at the taxpayers’ expense will not deter undocumented immigration. But it will cost at least $12 billion, according to most estimates, and as much as $40 billion. For an administration and Congress that is eyeing major budget cuts that will harm the well-being of tens of millions of American families in the name of “deficit reduction,” spending such unfathomable amounts on an ineffective wall is reckless at best. The idea floated last week to pay for the wall with a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports would not only disrupt trade agreements around the world – it would end up brazenly passing the bill to American consumers, who would face higher prices for food (the U.S. imported $21 billion in Mexican agricultural products in 2015), cars and consumer goods made in Mexico.

Punishing decisions made by local police and policymakers to limit their voluntary involvement with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations puts the safety of residents of these “sanctuary cities” in jeopardy. And the latest research from the Center for American Progress and National Immigration Law Center shows this commonsense approach by local authorities also pays dividends for local economies. Counties with sanctuary policies not only have lower crime rates than non-sanctuary counties – busting the myth that sanctuaries are “safe havens” for criminal activity – they have stronger economies, with higher median household incomes, lower unemployment rates and less poverty.

Apparently facts do not matter to the President – or to our Governor, who recently voiced his support for taking federal funds away from New Jersey’s own sanctuary cities, even though such a move would clearly harm the Garden State.

Despite the executive order’s threat of drying up funding, some experts suggest that eliminating federal funding to sanctuary cities would be unconstitutional and halted by the courts. Simply put, federal ICE agents have to do their own deportation work, not rely on local police and local taxpayers to do it for them.

And banning refugees and legal permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries is an affront to core American values – and one that won’t make America any safer. In fact, no terrorist from these countries has perpetrated a lethal attack in the U.S., and the chance of being killed by any refugee is just 1 in 3.64 billion, according to the Cato Institute.

Here in New Jersey, we take pride in being the state with the third largest share of immigrants in the nation and the most diverse, with immigrants from all over the world, including refugees. Little known fact: New Jersey, along tied with California, has the highest share of Syrian immigrants in the nation.

This ban, the proposed wall and punishing sanctuary cities are all immoral, a violation of basic civil rights and an affront to basic American values and a serious blow to the American economy, which prospers from attracting enterprising immigrants from around the world. We all – including Gov. Christie – must stand in unison to reject these proposals.

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