Coalition of groups oppose 'zero-tolerance' policy

Rep. Frelinghuysen condemns family separations

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  • Retiring Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen opposes the Republican president's policy of separating immigrant families at the border.

  • NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has signed an executive order “to prevent any state resources from being used to help federal authorities separate families.”

By Meghan Byers

— NJ 11th for Change, a local political grassroots coalition, has joined forces with five other New Jersey groups to organize “Fridays for Families,” a series of demonstrations in Morristown beginning this Friday to protest the separation of families crossing the southern United States border. Also sponsoring the event are organizations Make the Road NJ, SOMA Action, BlueWave NJ, Wind of the Spirit, and the NJ Working Families Alliance.

The new “zero-tolerance policy” to increase prosecution of border-crossing offenses was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 6. The result has been that when families are caught illegally crossing the border, adults are now arrested and separated from their children rather than the families being detained together. The children are then placed in holding facilities before being moved to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services. One such facility in southern Texas, a former warehouse, holds children in “a series of cages created by metal fencing,” according to a report by the Associated Press. About 2,000 children have been separated from their parents since April.

New Jersey politicians from both sides of the aisle have condemned the family separation policy.

“We can move to improve our security without losing our compassion. We can fix our immigration system without inflicting cruelty upon children,” Democratic congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill wrote in a Twitter post. “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be standing up to end forced separation and working toward comprehensive immigration reform.”

Sherrill, who is running to represent New Jersey’s 11th congressional district, was officially endorsed by NJ 11th for Change on Monday. The group initially formed in response to what they felt was a lack of transparency and communication from Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ11), who announced his retirement earlier this year. They’ve called now for fellow constituents “to stand for an end to the separation of families at the US border.”

Rep. Frelinghuysen himself issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the family separation policy.

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

The 11th Congressional District includes five Sussex County municipalities: Byram Township, Hopatcong, Ogdensburg, Sparta Township and Stanhope.

Governor Phil Murphy (NJ-D) announced the same day on Twitter that he would sign an executive order “to prevent any state resources from being used to help federal authorities separate families.”

“New Jersey will not be a party to this inhumane policy,” he wrote.

President Trump, for his part, has cast blame on Democrats for his administration’s policy. “I hate the children being taken away,” he told reporters at the White House on Friday. “The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have pointed out the current practice of separating families is a policy decision made by the Trump administration in April, 2018, and that the president can halt it any time he wants with a phone call.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the policy “inhumane” in a Facebook post, adding, “This is not right and it should disturb and activate our moral not just be a bystander at this moral moment in history.” Booker co-sponsored the “Keep Families Together Act,” introduced June 7 in the Senate. The bill has since gained the support of every Senate Democrat. No Republicans have signed on yet as of Tuesday, June 19.

“The America I know does not put children into cages,” NJ Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said in a speech on Tuesday, calling the family separation policy “indefensible.”

The Fridays for Families demonstration will begin at 3 PM outside Frelinghuysen’s Morristown office and run until 6 PM, with speakers throughout. According to NJ 11th for Change Media Director Laurie Beacham, the group does not yet have an end date for the gatherings, and plans to continue to meet every Friday going forward.

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