NJ Democrats Vow Opposition as Sessions Threatens Funding for ‘Sanctuary Cities’

Wisniewski and Johnson criticize Sessions for the pledge. Murphy has said he will limit executive overreach.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said this week he will take away federal funding from self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities” who refuse to comply with federal immigration policy changes. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Following U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ pledge this week that he will withhold federal funds from municipalities across the country who declare themselves “sanctuary cities” and decline to enforce stricter federal detention and deportation laws, Democratic hopefuls in New Jersey are saying they are unmoved by the threat.

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Support for complying with President Donald Trump’s harder line on undocumented immigrants has fallen along partisan lines among the state’s gubernatorial candidates.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski and former Undersecretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson both spoke out against Sessions, saying they would stick to their guns in not actively enforcing new federal guidelines demanding that states and cities work to find, report or detain undocumented immigrants.

“Attorney General Sessions’ attack on sanctuary cities will do nothing to improve the safety of residents or improve their quality of life,” said Wisniewski, who is sponsoring a bill in the Assembly to make New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”

“If successful, he will only make it harder for police to do their jobs as the immigrant community will become much more distrustful of authorities.”

Wisniewski’s bill would prevent state law enforcement from conducting immigration enforcement actions, and from cooperating with federal officers for that purpose. Johnson said he would pursue a similar tactic of non-cooperation as governor.

“As the Trump administration tries to distract from their failure to replace the Affordable Care Act by attacking our immigrant communities, here in New Jersey, we will continue to take a stand against this bigotry and hate. New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation, and our immigrant communities are integral to the fabric of our state,” Johnson said.

Phil Murphy, frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and for the general election, has said that he will not enforce new immigration orders at the state level. Despite their mutual record of criticizing Trump, Republican frontrunner and lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno has called the push for sanctuary cities a “political stunt” while her chief primary rival Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has called it “reckless and irresponsible.”

NJ Democrats Vow Opposition as Sessions Threatens Funding for ‘Sanctuary Cities’