If Trump defunds 'sanctuary cities,' N.J. will pay more for mass deportations | Opinion
By Rudy A. Rodas
President Trump is threatening to take federal money from towns -- including many in New Jersey -- that refuse to join his extremely costly mass deportation system.
Let's be clear. The issue of "sanctuary cities" is not a problem because towns want to protect noncriminal immigrants. The problem is that Trump is forcing towns to spend their money and resources on his deportation force.
Taking federal funds away from municipalities that do not comply could put the jobs of local police officers and teachers at risk. This is a bad policy by the federal government -- a problem that needs an immediate bipartisan response from New Jersey elected officials.
Democratic State Sen. Brian Stack has proposed legislation to help municipalities pay their bills if Trump withholds federal funds. A separate state fund would replace these losses. Unfortunately, Republicans across the board have refused to support this legislation.
Gov. Chris Christie threatened to veto the bill. Gubernatorial candidate and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli stated that he believes in compassionate immigration reform, but he also stated he is against this legislation. He claims towns that adopt policies like sanctuary cities place public safety at risk and cost New Jersey taxpayers billions.
Ciattarelli's reasoning does not make sense. Towns do not want to help Trump because it is a waste of their money and resources to focus on people who are not a threat to public safety. They want to spend money on education, community activities, road improvements, and local public safety initiatives. They also want to maintain the trust between police and the undocumented communities that help keep their neighborhoods safe.
This fiscal year, municipalities in the state are expected to receive $15.7 billion in federal funds. Trump is threatening towns to either spend time and money on helping him deport people or lose these federal funds. Either way, these towns will not be able to use this money to make positive improvements in their community.
It actually is more expensive for taxpayers if towns agree to become a part of Trump's mass deportation system.
There are 500,000 unauthorized immigrants in New Jersey. Many have been in New Jersey longer in their countries of birth. Many are married to U.S. citizens and have U.S. citizen children. They haven't applied for legal status for risk of being separated from their family. Despite their challenges, they work hard at their jobs, start businesses, coach their kids' sports teams, volunteer at their churches, and pay their taxes. (According to the Institute on Economic Policy and Taxation, New Jersey's undocumented immigrants contribute nearly $600 million in state and local taxes).
It is state taxpayers and the economy that will face the financial consequences of the federal government's plan to uproot thousands of families. U.S. citizen children left behind will become wards of the state. They will require additional government, social, and educational resources.
Multiple sectors of the economy will suffer from the labor shortage. A study by the Center for American Progress showed that if all unauthorized immigrants from New Jersey were deported, the state economy would lose almost $26 billion in annual gross domestic product.
In its entirety, Trump's mass deportation program of raiding, arresting, and jailing will destabilize our state economy and cost New Jersey taxpayers more money than we have to spend.
New Jersey lawmakers should draw lessons from their recent bipartisan efforts to treat wide-spread opioid addiction in the state.
Christie chose to spend state funds on rehabilitating nonviolent offenders because it costs more to incarcerate them. He also recognized the emotional hardships families suffered and wanted to focus on keeping families together.
Along the same lines, it will cost less taxpayer money for the state government to support towns that want to spend funds on improving their communities instead of causing hardships to thousands of families.
Last November, the majority of New Jersey voters did not vote for Donald Trump. We proved our belief in compassion, equality, and strong family values.
Now, the Trump administration challenges our values. Trump believes in wielding a heavy hand. He wants to arrest and jail his way out of problems no matter the cost to taxpayers.
This is bad policy for New Jerseyans, it's a bad idea for the nation.
Rudy A. Rodas is chairman of the Immigration Committee at the Latino Action Network, a New Jersey coalition of Latino organizations dedicated to political empowerment, the promotion of civil rights, and the elimination of disparities in the areas of education, health, and employment.