By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
The Senate session was opened by an imam from Elizabeth in English and Arabic.
Then one by one, Senate Democrats rose to support a resolution condemning President Trump’s executive order on immigration.
“This is a New Jersey matter the actions of President Trump threaten the families within our communities that call New Jersey home. They threaten our core values as Americans,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz.
“Union City probably has 20 percent undocumented residents. These are good, hard-working people. To ban people on the color of their skin, on their religious background, on their ethnicity is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. Especially when it’s coming from the person that’s supposed to be the leader of the free world,” said Sen. Brian Stack.
“The president’s executive order cuts to the heart of our nation’s soul. Our actions in this body’s response will show future generations that we stood in this moment and we stood for justice,” said Sen. Nia Gill.
It looked for a time that Republican senators would stay silent.
Then their leader, Tom Kean, rose for the briefest of remarks.
“Some of the arguments have ignored the realities that many prior presidential administrations of both parties have taken similar immigration actions of those recently recommended. So, let’s focus on the solutions that are important to the people of the state of New Jersey today and going forward and we can come together as a citizen and as a people,” he said.
The only other Republican to speak was Gerald Cardinale. Neither he nor Kean tried to defend the president.
“I will defer to the remarks that have been made by the minority leader. I associate myself with those remarks and there is no need for me to expand beyond that point,” Cardinale said.
The vote was 21 Democrats in favor of the anti-Trump position, 11 Republicans opposed.
Trump’s travel ban has roiled the country and this state. There was a protest march in Paterson yesterday.
Today’s action by the Democratically controlled Legislature can be seen as symbolic or just partisan theatrics, but the Democrats say it has meaning.
“Just by us speaking out and speaking strongly out on the behalf of the Muslim community or the undocumented community. It gives them hope,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak.
Muslim officials in attendance were appreciative.
“Without the courage of the media, without the courage of our leaders, this would have been such a difficult task for our community. Our community has been revived and we’ve been given the energy to continue forward. So once again, thank you so much,” said Ashraf Latif president of the National Islamic Association Masjid and Community Center.
A second resolution passed today would make all school buildings and college campuses in the state safe havens for the undocumented. The Assembly has some similar resolutions of its own planned.