Sussex County Stands up Against New Jersey’s Sanctuary Directive…So Far
By David Jaroslav | May 30, 2019
Resistance to New Jersey’s new status as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens is escalating. Ever since the state’s unelected Attorney General (AG) Gurbir Grewal, appointed by Governor Phil Murphy (D), issued a sanctuary directive that took effect in March, municipalities across the Garden State have been passing anti-sanctuary resolutions in defiance of it. There are already at least nine of them across the state. Now Sussex County, the first county to act, has joined the resistance and drawn a harsh response from the AG.
On April 10, by a vote of 4-0 (with one absence), Sussex County’s all-Republican governing Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution placing a question on this November’s ballot, asking the voters of the county whether to tell the sheriff to support federal immigration law, or the AG’s sanctuary directive. To be answered Yes or No by the voter, the ballot question reads:
"The Voters of Sussex County, State of New Jersey, direct the Sheriff of Sussex County and his office to obey the duly enacted laws of the United States of America and all agencies of the federal government with regard to undocumented migrants illegally residing in the United States of America; and to further instruct the Sheriff of Sussex County and his office to ignore directives from state officers and agencies that would undermine federal law in this regard."
In passing the resolution, Freeholder Sylvia Petillo (R) said, "If you don't respect the laws of the U.S., you don't respect the U.S. I'm tired of people trying to bully their way into our country."
Freeholder Josh Hertzberg (R), a former career federal law enforcement officer with the Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), added that the ballot question was just “asking our politicians to follow the law.”
AG Grewal, in a May 17 letter, responded to the board’s action by telling Sussex County Clerk Jeffrey Parrott (R) not to include the question on the ballot. He claimed that it was not a valid ballot question because the directive "reflected a proper exercise of the Attorney General's statewide law enforcement authority, and county governments may not propose ballot questions that would interfere with this authority."
County Clerk Parrott has indicated only that he is “reviewing the letter with counsel. We have until June 7 to respond … and will be alerting the freeholders of our findings as well.”
But Sussex County Sheriff Michael Strada (R) reacted much more forcefully. The former Army Infantry officer and Iraq War veteran sent a letter on May 24 to United States Attorney General William Barr, condemning Grewal’s attempt to deprive the citizens of Sussex County of their right to vote and requesting the federal government’s guidance.
Regardless of what Barr or other federal officials might do, Strada said he will continue to fight the Murphy administration on its sanctuary state scheme. He said, “I believe it will lead to an expansion of modern slavery – human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children – and of the criminal importation of illegal firearms, narcotics, and opioids. The sanctuary state idea will lead to legal anarchy as well as aiding organized crime and terrorism. It is nothing more than a dangerous and illogical fashion statement.”
State Assemblyman Parker Space (R), whose district is mostly in Sussex County, backed up the sheriff, saying “Sheriff Mike Strada is right to stand up to Governor Murphy and the leftists who run his administration. We support him 100 percent. … The property taxpayers of Sussex County pay for the operations of the Sheriff’s office… they pay for the Sheriff and all his officers… they have the absolute right to instruct him on how they want him to deal with Murphy’s sanctuary state b.s.” He added that, according to FAIR, “illegal immigration costs New Jersey taxpayers over $3 billion every year, which is close to 10 percent of our state’s entire budget.”
If Sussex County backs down, will that spell the end of anti-sanctuary resistance in New Jersey? If it presses forward, will more counties join the fight? FAIR will continue to monitor the situation closely.