I will be attending HCDO dinner tonight honoring US Senator Bob Menendez with special guest Governor Phil Murphy. I stand with Bob, Phil and other democrats and I stand against the Trump Republican Party.
Tonight I will drive past the protestors and recognize many friends - colleagues, former students, and probably a few former players and parents from soccer teams I have coached in Bayonne.
Immigration Reform has been a wedge issue in this country since our founding. My former political science and public administration students understand how it has been used to insight anger and violence but also how these struggles have lead to incredible progress in our Democracy.
As the son of immigrants, I understand the opportunity America presents to those looking for a better life. The reality is that all my success is tied directly to the decision of my family to come to this country. Of course, it was fortunate that both my grandparents and parents joined unions - seamstress, longshoreman, electrical and teachers - which provided a path to the American Dream and middle class.
The debate on the ICE contract is an important one - but not in regards to immigration reform. I think everyone at Liberty House would agree the 1. There needs to be a pathway to citizenship. 2. Undocumented residents should not be detained for simply being undocumented. 3. Anyone, regardless of immigration status, who commits a violent crime should be prosecuted. 4. There has been no stronger advocate for immigration reform in the United States Senate than Bob Menendez.
I know my progressive friends will hate to hear this, but the debate on the ICE contract is bigger than immigration - it is about the monetization of our public prison system. For years, many of us have been outspoken critics of the privatization of prisons and prison industrial complex. (Should sound familiar to some of my students). Today, that private system has been replaced by a public system that follows a similar market driven philosophy. Quite simply, each cell needs to be filled to maximize profits. That is exactly the wrong approach for public policy leaders. We should want to create a society where prisons are no longer needed; where occupancy rates plummet. In this society, we are providing services to the community which prevents the necessity of large prison complexes.
In New Jersey, bail reform has gone a long way to shrinking prison populations. Now we need to invest in some other core issues to continue this trend. These include job training programs, mental health services, and quality public education systems, among others. NJ also needs to study consolidated state and county prison systems. A major component of this work should include working with correction officers on career development and transition opportunities.