But even as they engage in a bruising district 12 contest, State Sen. Ellen Karcher and her challenger, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, took a moment today to charge their cavalries in the same direction against local politicians bare knuckling it on the issue of illegal immigration – and against what both women see as an apathetic federal government.
Beck says the schools in her hometown of Red Bank consist of 70% new immigrants, and conceded that in her district many old time residents see newcomers as consumers of public resources but not necessarily contributors via taxes.
According to both Beck and Karcher, however, local and state law enforcement should not tackle the issue of between 700,000 and 800,000 undocumented workers in the State of New Jersey. The candidates share that view in direct opposition to the entrenched opinion of Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, who amplified his position at an anti-illegal immigration rally Saturday.
Quoted by the Morristown Daily Record, "How dare they question my right to move on this program," Cresitello said of Gov. Jon Corzine’s and Attorney General Anne Milgram’s "opposition to his plan to deputize town police" to arrest undocumented workers in accordance with provisions outlined by the federal Department of Homeland Security.
From their vantage point in Monmouth and Mercer counties where they have also faced issues of "stacking," or multiple undocumented workers living in one residential building, and public resource challenges, Karcher and Beck vehemently disagreed with Cresitello.
"I understand his anger, but the New Jersey Attorney General should not be deporting illegal immigrants," said Beck. "That is a role of the federal government. I don’t know how you physically do it. I don’t know if the taxpayers of New Jersey are inclined to go that way."
"This is an issue that's too complex for demagoguery and political rhetoric," said the senator in a statement. "For years, the federal government has failed to address the issue of illegal immigration, and consistently failed to secure our borders and crack down on employers that hire illegal aliens. Now they want local government to take over immigration enforcement."
Karcher said the federal Department of Homeland Security measure that would empower local and state law enforcement to assume the front lines in an offensive against illegal immigration is flawed.
"I have spoken with several local law enforcement officials, and it is apparent that there are many questions and well-founded concerns about what 287g will require – both in the costs to the municipalities and the additional burdens on law enforcement," said the senator. "Rather than trying to solve the immigration crisis on the backs of local government, it’s time for the federal government to fix the problem and pass comprehensive immigration reform."
Said Beck, "The influx (of undocumented workers) is so great and the process is so long and difficult. There needs to be an easier path to citizenship for those who are here. And secondarily, you need to make it more difficult for people to get across our border."
As a councilwoman in Red Bank, Beck says she helped put in place a fee punishing landlords who skirt borough rules governing maximum occupancy in the buildings they own.
"It allows code enforcement official to go in and inspect," Beck said of the local safety measure. "It has worked. Some of the major abusers have been caught and fined."