Rep. Frelinghuysen gets earful on immigration

Katrina Response
EAST HANOVER TWP. – Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11, held a town meeting last Saturday armed with opinions about Hurricane Katrina relief and his continued support for the war in Iraq but spent the largest chunk of time responding to questions about illegal immigration.

Although the residents in attendance were mostly from the East Hanover area, many were well aware of the ongoing day laborer controversy in Morristown and searched for ways to put an end to it and halt illegal immigration altogether.

Frelinghuysen responded that he has more inquiries concerning immigration at his office than any other single issue.

Frelinghuysen told the audience of about 40, “There is a difference between legal and illegal immigration.�

He cited President’s George Bush’s program to grant amnesty to illegal immigrant workers who have been in the country for three years working. Frelinghuysen opposed that measure. “We don’t know how many people are here illegally,� he said. “I voted for a 660,000 limit a year but now there are 1.5 million immigrants coming here illegally every year.�

The Congressman noted the United States is a nation of immigrants. “If you look at who does the hard labor, who cuts the grass and washes the cars, many in Congress raise the issue of why aren’t Americans getting these jobs.�

Resident Arnold Dunn told Frelinghuysen illegal immigrants should be rounded up and deported. “People object to amnesty (for illegal immigrants) because there is no penalty, none� he said. “We have not sent that message. The situation is not palatable.�

He added he is not opposed to legal immigration. “I just want them to come here through legal channels,� he said. “Doesn’t the federal government have a responsibility to protect its borders? We are the most powerful country in the world. There’s got to be a solution.�

Frelinghuysen said the issue is very complicated but that Sen. John McCain has sponsored a bill that does have penalties for illegal immigrants. “You can say, ‘go to the Morristown train station, gather every one up and who is here illegally and take them back to their own country,’� Frelinghuysen said. “But once they are here they are entitled to due process by law.�

Resident Frank Summer wondered if there is a law that calls for deporting illegal immigrants, why isn’t it enforced.

Because immigrants have become an integral part of the nation, Frelinghuysen explained. “It’s a huge issue,� the congressman said. “Many immigrants have families. My attitude is if they are working hard and sending money back to their families (in their home countries) more people won’t come here.�

Responding to questions of how immigration can be regulated, Township Councilman Joseph Musso said immigrants can be regulated by simply having employees fill out IRS 1099 forms that are supposed to be filed by any employers hiring on a temporary basis to verify legal status of employees.

But Dunn scoffed at the notion. “Anyone will tell you, all that information is phony,� he said. It’s phony names and addresses and phony Social Security numbers. If you go down to Newark you can find hundreds of them, all the same.�

On other issues, Frelinghuysen, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, was critical of the government’s response, both federal and local, to Hurricane Katrina relief.

“I’ll accept whatever blame is due to Congress,� he said and also indicated former Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Director Michael Brown may not have been up to the task.

“There is plenty of blame to go around,� he said. “It is unacceptable that four years after 9/11 we still haven’t gotten it right.�

Frelinghuysen said he was “unimpressed by the mayor (of New Orleans) and the governor of Louisiana and somewhat unimpressed by the president.�

“When you see school buses underwater that shouldn’t be news to elected officials,� he added.

“The focus of Congress and of the nation is to pick up the pieces and lives of those affected by Hurricane Katrina,� he said. “Our job now is rescue, recovery, rebuilding and facing recriminations.�

Frelinghuysen said if he had been head of Homeland Security he would have mobilized the military even before Katrina hit. He criticized Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

“The governor has to mobilize troops,� he said. “Why wouldn’t you federalize the National Guard or at least bring troops in from another state? In Louisiana, it was all about state sovereignty.�

Frelinghuysen supported faith based relief groups for their efforts in the recovery, calling attention to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

He also said people should look more closely at what House speaker Dennis Hastert said immediately after the devastation in New Orleans was revealed. “Hastert was taken to the cleaners for suggesting that maybe New Orleans shouldn’t be rebuilt,� Frelinghuysen said. “But something’s got to give. Some people may want to stay in Texas. Congress’s attitude shouldn’t be to build new housing.�

Frelinghuysen was quick to put Katrina relief in perspective with the ongoing war in Iraq. “We should never forget we are a country at war,� he said. “Lots of men and women are doing the work of freedom. Its important that as long as they are on the battlefield we support them.�

In other matters, Frelinghuysen said while he is opposed to privatizing Social Security, he is more open to the idea of younger people in the work force putting some of their money into private accounts.

“Older workers will receive all the benefits they are due,� Frelinghuysen said. “But younger workers may find by the time they retire the money is not there. I would support them putting some, not all, their income into private accounts to help them out.�