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Mike and Julie on Murphy's first year, Mattis resignation, GOP loyalty to Trump

By Star-Ledger Staff Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginsky, a Democrat, and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who have worked on opposite teams for their entire careers yet have remained friends throughout. Here, they discuss the week's events, with...

By Star-Ledger Staff

Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion across the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginsky, a Democrat, and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who have worked on opposite teams for their entire careers yet have remained friends throughout. Here, they discuss the week's events, with prompts from Tom Moran, editorial page editor of The Star-Ledger.

Q. Merry Christmas, the federal government is shut down again. Typically, the party that provokes a shutdown pays a price. How do you expect this one to play out?

 DuHaime: I generally believe the party with control of the executive branch suffers politically.   Most voters know the President, the Governor and the Mayor, but they're not as sure about who controls the legislature or care as much.  As such, the president gets credit when things are going well or blame when they are going poorly.   But at this point, I am not sure anyone cares about the shutdown too much.  Not many people have been personally impacted yet.  If they shut down TSA and the airports are a mess, then the shutdown will be solved quickly.

Roginsky: This has been the third shutdown during the Trump presidency and it will likely be forgotten by 2020. If anything, it contributes to the general sense that this administration does not have its act together but there are many data points to buttress that thesis and the shutdown is just one of them.  As for how it turns out, it will not end as the president and House Republicans insist. Trump is not getting funding for the wall -- either, as promised, from Mexico or from American taxpayers. 

 Q. The resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis struck many Senate Republicans as a dangerous turning point, a sign that national security decisions hinge more and more on President's Trump's gut feelings. Should I be as scared as I feel?

DuHaime: The presence of long-time high-ranking generals like Mattis and Kelly in positions of high authority gave many people across the political spectrum comfort that the President had professionals and patriots key positions.  Senate Republicans will watch closely to see who the permanent replacements are.

Roginsky: I keep hearing that Republican senators are hand-wringing with respect Trump's national security, but have you noticed that they are doing it on background or only if they are departing the Senate next week? The reality is that Republicans in Washington are generally too terrified of primaries and of being the subject of mean presidential tweets to stand up for what the Republican Party has traditionally stood for: a muscular foreign policy, with a healthy dose of moralpolitik. And that should frighten all of us, because they are largely abandoning our national security to a know-nothing, autocrat-obsessed man child, who has done more to destroy the Pax America that both parties worked so assiduously to establish for the last seventy years. 

Q. Stock markets in December are headed towards their worst month in a decade. What's the political threat to Trump?

DuHaime: Anyone who gets elected to any office must prove to be really good at the one thing they claim to be really good at.  Rudy Giuliani campaigned on lowering crime in New York.  He could have done everything else right, but if crime didn't go down, he would have never been re-elected.  In NJ, Jon Corzine suffered from the hemorrhaging of jobs on his watch after campaigning on his Goldman Sachs credentials.  In many ways, Donald Trump won because of the impression that he is a tough, successful businessman.  There is nothing a businessman should know better than the economy.  Any president would suffer politically if the economy faltered.  But a businessman will be blamed even more so.  

Roginsky: The main reason Trump still has the base of support he has is because the economy has been robust. If the economy tanks, so does his presidency. 

Q. In his first two years, Trump's firm hold on the Republican Party has been unchallenged. What would it take for that to change in 2019?

DuHaime: Nothing politically is going to challenge Trump's hold on the GOP.  He remains extraordinarily popular with a wide swath of the Republican Party, not just "the base" as some claim in a derogatory way.  No person could credibly challenge him for the nomination, and the Republicans in Congress have only become more in line with the President, because so many of the more moderate members lost.   The only person that could have an impact on the President's hold over the Republican Party is Robert Mueller.

Roginsky: Mike is generally right. Nothing is going to change Trump's hold on the GOP. Sadly, the party is in such thrall to him and to his media enablers/handlers that even Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican who has served without an ethical blemish, is now considered a Democratic hack by the president's supporters. 

Q. Gov. Phil Murphy said he's considering another round of tax hikes next year, but legislative leaders say they won't consider it unless he cuts spending first. Do you see a stalemate taking shape, or the makings a grand bargain?

DuHaime: I think a stalemate over tax increases is shaping up.  The vast majority of our state budget is already dedicated to school funding, pensions, benefits and Medicaid.  I hope the leaders of the legislature stick to their word about no new taxes, but that would mean the governor agreeing to real spending cuts in discretionary spending, reforming the pension system or simply underfunding the pension by a few billion dollars.  Good luck to everyone who tries to stick to their campaign promises next year.

Roginsky: My New Year's wish is that they meet regularly and talk openly about how to move the state forward.  I suspect that a grand bargain could be struck if everyone decides to work towards a grand bargain. 

Q. Final question: Murphy is in Tanzania on safari this week. How would you grade his performance during his first year in office? What do you see as the high points and low points?

DuHaime: It's too easy for one side to blindly say F while the other says A.  I would offer constructive observations instead.  The governor needs to get into the weeds of governing.  The Katie Brennan allegation troubles me even beyond the significance of her serious allegation.  If staff kept the governor in the dark on something this serious, and no one has been fired for it or offered a real explanation as to why, what else is he unaware of?   Voters are not going to blame some unknown staff lawyer for the bungling of this, nor will they blame the DOT commissioner regarding snow removal, or the legislative leaders when key parts of his agenda fail to pass.  

The governor has every advantage one could ever want in politics.  He is the independently wealthy Democrat governor of a Democratic state with Democrats in controls of both houses of the legislature, the congressional delegation, most of the big counties and all of our biggest cities.  The governor seems to be a good man with his heart in the right place, even if we disagree on some policies.  But the people of NJ are looking for him to be a strong leader, one who takes responsibility, and takes charge on issues that matter to everyday people.  

Roginsky: I would give him an "Incomplete." He did not create the mess the state is in and he cannot solve it in one year, so it would be unfair to grade him on a job partially done. I would no sooner grade the Yankees' season in May. He has accomplished quite a great deal already: equal pay, funding for women's health, an ambitious off-shore wind plan, strengthening gun safety laws. But much more remains to be done to turn the state around, from fixing our long-term finances to New Jersey Transit. Let's check in again next December, after the fifth inning.

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Student wrestler 'valiant' after forced haircut | Feedback

Tod M. Thedy writes in admiration of how Buena High School's Andrew Johnson and his family are handling this situation.

I am writing to applaud Buena Regional High School student wrestler Andrew Johnson and his parents for the dignified manner in which they are addressing the controversy surrounding the cutting of Andrew's dreadlocks under duress prior to a match.  

Neither Andrew nor his parents have sought media prominence. We have not seen them or their attorneys making the rounds on television news shows or holding press conferences (although a family attorney spoke at a Dec. 26 school board meeting.)  We have not heard pronouncements of "racism" from the wrestler and his family. 

This is a departure from what our society has devolved into, and I commend the Johnson family's decorum in allowing the system and regulators to investigate and act appropriately.  

Andrew can be seen in a video of this incident allowing his hair to be cut without fanfare or outrageous protest, then proceeding to compete valiantly in the match for the benefit of his team. He put his team ahead of himself. He was graceful and reserved.  

I, for one, admire and respect the manner in which Andrew and his family are seeking resolution. I hope that their restraint and civility will serve as a model for others who may follow in similar situations.

Tod M. Thedy, El Paso, Texas

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Facing scandal and fiscal crisis, Murphy's challenges deepen | Moran

The governor's claim that he knew nothing of Katie Brennan's rape accusation faces deeper scrutiny next month. Then comes the budget, with legislators saying he's given them no hint how he might move to solve the crisis.

Gov. Phil Murphy left on Friday for a 12-day safari in Tanzania with his family, and one of my Christmas wishes is that he has a grand time. He's a decent man, and he deserves a break.

Plus, he's going to get crushed when he returns to Jersey. This could be his last chance to chill for quite a while.

The big fight will center on taxes, and it will flare up in February when the governor is due to present his budget address. The governor is almost certain to lose that fight, and I'll get to that.

But his first problem is Katie Brennan, the woman who says she was raped by a senior Murphy aide, Al Alvarez, during the campaign. She told Murphy's senior people, and they ignored her, month after month, she testified during a special legislative investigation. Meanwhile, they rewarded her alleged rapist with a $140,000 job. She had to walk past the man in hallways, and still her complaints were ignored.

That can't be mansplained away. It's frat-boy behavior, and it is going to hit Murphy right in his sweet spot -- his popularity among women and hard-core liberals.

This scandal will go nuclear if Murphy's claim that he knew nothing until reading press reports is proven untrue. "That would be a really big thing," says Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the co-chair of an investigative committee digging at this. "If it's shown that he knew, that would undermine whatever his plans are for the future."

Here's my prediction: Murphy's story is not going to hold up. The governor is either lying about his knowledge of Brennan's complaint, or he chose to look away.

At Tuesday's investigative hearing, Chief of Staff Pete Cammarano told legislators the governor was unaware of Brennan's complaint "as far as I know" -- a phrase that tells us even he's not so sure. He said he didn't tell the governor because two attorneys, both appointed by Murphy, advised him that the state's confidentiality rules forbid it.

Think about that one: How could the rules allow Cammarano to know, but not the governor?

I asked the four women legislators who are leading this investigation if that made any sense to them, and they all shook their heads in a bipartisan "no."

The state's confidentiality rules explicitly allow information to be shared with those who have "a legitimate need to know." Are we supposed to believe that Cammarano had a need to know, but the governor did not?

The line of the day on Tuesday came from Charlie McKenna, who served as chief counsel to former Gov. Chris Christie before switching to run the agency in charge of school construction. He was called because he was the direct supervisor to Alvarez during the first seven months of the Murphy administration, when he served as a holdover

Legislators asked how Christie would have reacted if McKenna withheld this kind of information when he was chief counsel.

"I would still be feeling the pain today," McKenna answered.

Legislators intend to dig at this again, and that can't be good for Murphy. Information will dribble out slowly, and painfully. The warm evening breezes of Tanzania will seem like a distant dream from another lifetime.

In February, bruised from all this, Murphy has to present a budget. He says he may want to raise taxes again, a strategy that's been explicitly rejected by both Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex.

Murphy has no plan to solve the state's fiscal crisis. Believe me, I've asked his people, over and over. And it's not just me. Legislators don't know of any plan either. He's done nothing to prepare the public for any painful measures, and even less to marshal legislative support.

That, folks, is not normal.

Remember Christie's first year? Like him or not, he knew where he wanted to go and had a plan to get there. He held about 1,000 town hall meetings emphasizing the need to reduce health and pension benefits, to cap property tax hikes, to lower health costs. He met with Democratic legislative leaders constantly and found a bipartisan coalition that got most of that done.

Murphy has no plan. He has no coalition in the Legislature. He meets with legislative leaders once every few months, and they come away saying he doesn't know the material well and doesn't close deals.

"The governor is just not taking this seriously, and that's a real problem," says Sweeney.

The February fight will center on taxes. Murphy said last week he won't rule out more tax hikes, but he'd need support from Sweeney and Coughlin to do that, and they both say it's not going to happen - at least not until Murphy gets serious about cutting spending by reducing pension and health benefits. Sweeney has presented a plan to do just that, and Murphy hasn't offered a speck of support.

Do women govern differently? Look at Trenton this week. | Moran

"If you don't like my plan, where is yours?" Sweeney asks. "To raise taxes just kicks the can down the road. That is the problem. If revenue is needed as part of a solution, then ok, let's have that conversation. But we have to fix the structural problems first."

If Murphy is smart, he'll take that deal. He'll agree to Sweeney's spending cuts, in return for legislative support for a hike in the millionaire's tax, everyone's favorite.

I hope that happens. Because this fiscal crisis is a slow-moving disaster. It's the reason NJ Transit is such a mess. And if we don't fix it, education and health care could be next.

Murphy will return from Tanzania just as legislators resume the investigation into Brennan's treatment. A month or so later, he's required by law to present his budget.

So let's hope he's getting a lot of rest on the safari. He's going to need all the mojo he's got when he arrives home.

More: Tom Moran columns 

Tom Moran may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find Opinion on Facebook.

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On the Census, Trump and GOP allies target Latinos | Moran

Where is the sense of fair play? Trump's move to add a question about citizenship status is bound to reduce the count in states and cities with large immigrant populations.

New Jersey's top legislative leaders just tried to pull a slippery stunt that would have cheapened our democracy by tilting the electoral map in their favor, but they were forced to abandon it last weekend after the party's base revolted.

"We don't have to cheat to win," said Analilia Mejia, head of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

Imagine if the Republican base in this Trump era had the same respect for fair play.

The question is relevant today as a federal judge prepares to rule on a challenge to the Trump administration's shameless effort to undercount Latinos in the 2020 census by adding a question on citizenship status. There is no doubt that the question will scare off a portion of the Latino population, leading to an undercount.

That means states like New Jersey, with heavy Latino populations, will not get their fair share of political power in Congress, since the size of each state's delegation is based on Census data. It means that within New Jersey, cities and towns with heavy Latino populations will not get their fair share of political power in Trenton, since the state's political map is based on Census data as well.

And because Washington distributes hundreds of billions of dollars based on this same data, states like New Jersey will get less than they deserve, again. Keep in mind that New Jersey already ranks among the biggest losers when it comes to federal aid, receiving 74 cents for every dollar we send to Washington, according to a 2015 study by the Rockefeller Institute. The Trump tax plan added to the imbalance by capping the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, and Trump Census plan will now make it worse again.

But it's the offense to democracy that really stings. The Trump administration pretends that its only goal is to accurately describe the country's population, as if they are adding a question about pet ownership. Wilbur Ross, who runs the Census as the Secretary of Commerce, told Congress that he had added this question without even discussing it with Trump or his senior aides. That, we know now, was a flat-out lie. The idea was first raised to him by Steven Bannon, Trump's former political strategist.

Why would Ross lie about that? The only reasonable answer is that he was trying to hide the political nature of this move. It's not about accuracy. It's about gaining partisan advantage.

Since Trump opened his campaign, he has been bashing immigrants with malicious lies, starting with his claim that they are more likely to commit crimes. He has threatened mass deportations. He has taken every opportunity to rile up his base by describing desperate parents and their children as threats to our national security.

The Census Bureau is barred by law from sharing information with immigration officials. But if you were an undocumented immigrant, would you trust this administration to play by the rules at the risk of being deported? Suppose you are a legal immigrant but are one of the estimated 500,000 people in New Jersey living in a home with at least one undocumented immigrant. Would you want to draw the attention of the federal government these days? In focus groups organized by experts at the Census Bureau, legal and illegal immigrants expressed fear that their information would be shared.

Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with American weapons | Moran

A handful of Republicans in New Jersey have objected to this scheme, including Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, who warns that it will cut into federal aid to New Jersey. But most Republicans are going along quietly, either because they agree with Trump or they are scared of his ability to rile up the party's base voters against his critics. New Jersey is one of 18 states that have joined this suit, but not a single Republican attorney general has joined them.

These are scary times. Our democracy is not about to collapse into chaos or military rule, but that's now how democracies usually die. They die from 1,000 small cuts, as authoritarian leaders attack the press, challenge the independence of judges, and corrupt the integrity of elections. This attempt to undermine the accuracy of the Census for political advantage would be just one more cut. Given the indifference of most Republicans, our best hope to prevent it lies with the federal courts.

More: Tom Moran columns 

Tom Moran may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find Opinion on Facebook.

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An inspiring moment as Democrats back off gerrymandering scam | Moran

The most fierce opposition to plan by Democratic leaders came not from Republicans, but from fellow Democrats who want to win elections fair and square.

On Saturday, the top two Democrats in the Legislature did what any sensible burglars would do when the alarm sounds and the floodlights snap on - they dropped their loot and ran.

The leaders, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, couldn't drum up enough votes to do their mischief. Their plan was to redraw New Jersey's political map in a way that would lock in an unfair advantage for Democrats over the next decade. They tried to do it in the dark, during lame duck session of the Legislature, when they thought everyone in the house was asleep.

But the alarm did sound, and suddenly the villagers were aroused, charging at Sweeney and Coughlin with torches in hand.

The surprise - and the glory of this moment - is that most of those charging at them were not Republicans, a party that has been worn down to a nub in New Jersey after the Christie years.

The storm of protest came mostly from the left, from Democrats and liberal activists who want to win elections fair and square. They signed the petitions, organized the marches, and testified against the plan. Citizen groups like the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey all called this a partisan gerrymander. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project warned that Republicans could someday use these same rules to gain unfair advantage against Democrats.

Grassroots groups joined the protest. They include leaders of NJ 11th for Change, South Jersey Progressive Women for Change, and the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, whose leader, Analilia Mejia, put the case against it succinctly: "We do not have to cheat to win," she says.

In the end, what started as another unseemly moment in Trenton turned into an inspiring one. Democrats have been watching Trump Republicans across the country cheapen our democracy with stunts like this, and much worse. And they wanted no part of it. Instead of reaching for a club to strike back, they reached for higher ground.

They listened to national Democrats like Eric Holder, the former attorney general, who said this stunt would damage the national fight against far more radical gerrymandering in states like Texas and North Carolina, along with shamelessly partisan and racist efforts to suppress turnout by restricting voting hours and imposing unreasonable ID requirements.

Republicans in Wisconsin just offered fresh insult. After losing in November, they used their final weeks in power to strip away key powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. Vladimir Putin must be delighted to find such effective allies in his fight to cheapen our democracy and inflame our divisions.

Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes with American weapons | Moran

For now at least, New Jersey Democrats are going to do the right thing, having exhausted all the other alternatives. Sweeney and Coughlin both put out statements that left them wiggle room to try again next year, but it's tough to take that seriously. Gov. Phil Murphy, to his credit, opposed this stunt from the start.

The irony is that New Jersey is ahead of most states today when it come to gerrymandering, We don't allow the legislature to draw the political map, as in most states. We hand the job to an independent commission, split between the two parties, and with a tie-breaker appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Why fix what's not broken?

This amendment would have tied the hands of the "independent" commission for the first time by requiring that it consider only statewide elections when devising its map. That includes races for president, U.S. Senate, and the governorship, where Democrats dominate. The commission would be barred from weighing the results of legislative elections, where Republicans are more competitive.

For now, let's relish the moment. With Donald Trump in the White House, these are scary times for our democracy. This time, though, democracy pushed back.

More: Tom Moran columns 

Tom Moran may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find Opinion on Facebook.

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Jersey City fire displaces family of 5: Red Cross

The Red Cross of New Jersey has provided the family with emergency assistance.

JERSEY CITY -- A family of five has been displaced from their home following a fire on Summit Avenue early this morning.

The Red Cross of New Jersey has provided the family with emergency assistance for temporary lodging, food and clothing needs, according to a tweet.

Disaster Action Team responded to a #fire on Summit Ave in #JerseyCity, helping a family of 5 with Red Cross emergency assistance for temporary lodging, food and clothing needs.

— Red Cross New Jersey (@NJRedCross) December 9, 2018

The fire appears to have originated at 1180 Summit Ave. Additional information on the fire was not immediately available.

A spokesperson for the city did not respond to a request for comment.

Corey W. McDonald may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow him on Twitter @coreymacc. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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NJ Transit promises to inform you when you're not getting home | Sheneman cartoon

Has it not heard of Twitter?

According to NJ Transit one of their top customer complaints is not the wretched state of its fleet or the crumbling infrastructure it runs on, but communication. Riders don't care so much that the trains don't run, apparently, they just really wish you would give them a heads up. 

The solution to this problem, like many troubled relationships, is communication.

After a lengthy and expensive audit at the behest of Governor Murphy found a profound lack of resources for providing information to riders, NJ Transit will be instituting new measures to let their patrons know exactly why they won't be getting home on time.

Apparently there will be a new app to update riders on delays and service outages.

Did NJ Transit officials know that they already have a website? Have they not heard of Twitter? It's 2018, there are a bevy of technological tools available at little or no cost to the user that would allow a state agency to keep its customers updated with ease.

I'm no computer expert, but I'm pretty sure the technology to update a website with pertinent information has existed for a few years now. If they couldn't be bothered to post about service issues on the website, why am I supposed to trust an app?

In addition, NJ Transit has spent $250,000 they don't have to contract a public relations firm to teach them how to communicate with the public. Here's an idea: If trains and buses are delayed or out of service, tell somebody.

Your welcome. Where's my $250,000?

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Ol' Saint Nick parades through North Hudson during 19th annual Santa Parade (PHOTOS)

The parade is organized in conjunction with North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and Union City.

Ol' Saint Nick paid a visit to North Hudson on Sunday for 19th annual Santa Parade.

The parade, presented by the North Hudson Fire Union's Charitable Foundation -- in conjunction with the North Hudson firefighters -- featured a number of festive floats, the Union City High School marching band, as well as several costumed characters.

It started at noon on Bergenline Avenue at 85th Street in North Bergen, and made its way south, ending on 32nd Street in Union City.

The parade is organized in conjunction with North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and Union City.

Scroll through the gallery above to see photos from the parade.

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Shame on N.J.? Nope. Shame on ICE for letting criminals loose | Editorial

The message is clear: Let ICE do its job, and let the fire inspectors and the cops do theirs.

New Jersey's sensible new policy on immigration enforcement has elicited the predictable histrionics, mostly from President Trump's propaganda machine at Fox News and some miffed bureaucrats.
No, this will not "handcuff cops from arresting illegal immigrants," as Fox's Laura Ingraham claims. Anyone who breaks the law will still be arrested, regardless of their immigration status.
Police in New Jersey know this. Kim Guadagno, whose slimy "Willie Horton"-style ad stirred up the worst fears of immigrants and helped her lose the governor's race to Phil Murphy, knows it too.

Ex-AG Milgram: Why I agree with AG Grewal to change my rules on cops and immigration
Yet there she was on TV, chiming in with Ingraham, one of Fox's most anti-immigrant blowhards, fanning the same flames again as she parroted the talking points of Trump officials.
In truth, the new policy announced by Murphy's Attorney General does nothing to protect criminals. They will still be arrested and jailed, and if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement does its job, deported.
What Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal does is set some reasonable limits on cooperating with ICE, because police can't do their jobs and arrest criminals without community trust. "Create trust - do you buy that?" Ingraham scoffs.
The answer is yes. It's not hyperbole to say that immigrants are often afraid to report crimes when they fear that the cops will turn them over to ICE. They don't even report fire code violations, or domestic abuse.

Another day, another slander by ICE | Editorial
This culture of secrecy only makes it harder for cops to find the witnesses they need to catch criminals, as police chiefs in urban departments confirm.
"If an illegal immigrant witnesses an assault or a shooting, we want them to call us," says James Shea, Jersey City's director of public safety. "That's how we prevent crimes, and that's how we solve them. And I want them to know they can come to us without any fears."
His counterpart in Newark, Anthony Ambrose, believes that if cops flagged immigrants for deportation, it would actually boost violent crime. "Without a doubt, we would definitely see an increase," he said. "Right now they can be witnesses and they've been very helpful."
For this reason, Grewal's directive says cops should not be stopping people and interrogating them about their immigration status. His office recorded videos in a dozen languages, by police officers who grew up speaking them, to assure the community that if you get pulled over or report a crime, you aren't at risk of being deported.
The message is clear: Let ICE do its job, and let the fire inspectors and the cops do theirs.
Local jails are a different story. They should tell ICE when a dangerous criminal is about to be released into the community. Such people are our first priority for deportation.
What Grewal says is that ICE needs to do its part and pick up detainees in a timely manner, or get a court order to authorize their added time in detention. It can't just expect jails and local taxpayers to assume all the legal risk in holding people past the final date of their sentences.
Courts have repeatedly declared this unconstitutional, putting us on the hook for big settlements, paid for by property taxes. Yet over and over, ICE has blamed the jails that follow a responsible policy like Grewal's for its own incompetence.
Take the Luis Perez case cited by Fox News. He was arrested on domestic violence charges and held in Middlesex jail. ICE could have gotten an order from a federal judge to keep him in the jail until it could pick him up. Instead, for 51 days - until he was sentenced to time served and released - ICE took no action.
It never responded to the jail's notification that under its guidelines, it could not detain Perez past the final date of his sentence, and never took him into custody. Then he got out and killed three people. "New Jersey, it's a shame. Shame on you," Ingraham said.
No. Instead of ranting about so-called "sanctuary" policies and threatening more indiscriminate sweeps to arrest pizza guys and grandpas, why not get over to the jail to pick up a violent criminal? That's your job, ICE. Shame on you.

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Jersey City faith leaders push for accelerated action on affordable housing, gun safety

The group, Jersey City Together, has scheduled meetings with Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

JERSEY CITY -- More than 500 faith & community leaders from the city came together Sunday night to push the city and state's elected officials for accelerated action on affordable housing, gun safety, and a number of other issues prevalent in the community.

The meeting, at the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Bergen Avenue, featured dozens of speakers from a number of different religious institutions in Jersey City as well as in the state.

The event was organized by Jersey City Together, a group comprised of 35 religious congregations and non-profits. It launched in April 2016 with 890 leaders at Old Bergen Church in April 2016 and gathered 1,100 leaders in 2017 for the largest pre-election action in Jersey City.

"How completely alone you feel when you send your child off to school and worry if they'll make it home, how terrifying and isolating that feeling is," said Rev. Laurie Wurm of the Grace Church Van Vorst. "Or when you're in school and... with all of the wealth and all of the development in this city, there isn't enough money to get the education you deserve, how isolating that feels."

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop assured the audience that they had a partner in him in addressing these issues, but said that tackling them -- and creating a more equal community -- will take time.

The hundreds of people in the audience heard troubling stories of life in Jersey City for some: one Greenville resident described her fear walking home every night; a McNair Academy High School student described how the school was so short on funding it couldn't fix a broken sink that had fallen off the wall.

One resident of the Holland Gardens Housing complex, Tanisha Johnson, told the crowd that she catches at least 17 mice in her apartment a night.

"With all of the high rises built around us... it's sad and ridiculous," she said.

Fulop responded, "When individuals like that come up and tell that story, it's troubling, I take that stuff very personally. At the end of the day I'm the one accountable for it, and there's work to be done. We want to move past that perception of a tale of two cities that people say, and it's going to take time. Rest assured you have a partner."

Fulop was not the only one called on to help address these issues. The group has meetings scheduled with both Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in January of 2019.

"We've got to hold (Murphy) accountable, because we understand that they're are a lot of things we will not be able to do and accomplish unless he becomes a partner, just like our mayor has become a partner," said Rev. Joshua Rodriguez of the Cityline Church.

But clergy members also highlighted the successes the city has had, pointing to the 95-acre Bayfront site on the city's west side, that Fulop estimates could include 35% affordable housing and would be one of the largest mixed-income, mixed-use developments in the state. 

They also lauded new leadership surrounding rent control, with more focus on predatory landlords.

And they assured the audience that despite the hardships they may feel, they are not alone.

"When we gather together, we are no longer alone, and that light of truth, that light of listening and understanding and compassion... that light shines brightly," Wurm said. "Remember you are not alone and this community will work together... We will share our burdens together until Jersey City is really a city for all people."

Corey W. McDonald may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow him on Twitter @coreymacc. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

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