Sanctuary cities are ‘bad business,’ Morris Sheriff tells raucous meeting as immigration activists crash Tea Party

Morris Tea Party President Carl Rupp calls for order in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Tea Party President Carl Rupp calls for order in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Sanctuary cities are “bad business,” and possibly illegal, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon told a packed meeting Tuesday that at times erupted into shouting between Tea Party members and pro-immigrant activists.

“When people are allowed to just…be hidden from view, illegally committing crimes, and people are not cooperating with the federal government, whether they’re from a local municipality or whatever, I think that’s bad business.

“I also tend to think it’s against the law… to harbor people who the federal government is looking for in serious criminal offenses,” Gannon told the monthly gathering of the Morris County Tea Party at the county library in Whippany.

Audience member clashes with Wind of the Spirit attorney Karol Ruiz, right, at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Audience member clashes with Wind of the Spirit attorney Karol Ruiz, right, at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Many of the 100 or so people crammed into the room–more filled a hallway– interrupted the Republican sheriff and James Agresti, president of a conservative/libertarian nonprofit called Just Facts, to challenge their statements.

“Go to San Francisco!” and “Come here legally!” others volleyed back.

As the two-hour session wound down, attorney Karol Ruiz of the Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center led chants of “No Human Being is Illegal!”

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Morris Tea Party President Carl Rupp calls for order in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Audience member clashes with Wind of the Spirit attorney Karol Ruiz, right, at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
James Agresti of Just Facts at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris Sheriff James Gannon at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
VIDEO DUEL at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Packed house at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Handbill from Fox News, at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
James Agresti of Just Facts fields question at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and the Rev. Alison Miller talk with audience member at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1470508 - Morris Tea Party President Carl Rupp calls for order in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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On one side of the divide were those expressing beliefs that immigrants should take the legal route to the United States, and local police should cooperate fully with ICE, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.

Pro-immigrant activists said President Trump’s policies have sown fear and distrust among immigrants, making communities less safe.

One educator choked up while relating how an undocumented woman and her sexually abused 5-year-old daughter vanished, because the woman feared deportation if she reported the abuse to authorities.

“Fair and Welcoming Community” resolutions adopted in Madison, Maplewood and elsewhere aim to allay immigrants’ fears about local police helping federal officers round them up, activists said. 

WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE MEETING

Alison Miller, pastor of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, urged Gannon to read an information packet about Fair and Welcoming Communities; he agreed to do so.

Earlier this month, Gannon stated on his website that it’s “just not right” for Morris County towns to declare “themselves as a place where illegal immigrants can be guaranteed safe harbor from federal law enforcement officials.”

But on Tuesday, in response to a question from Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, he conceded he knew of no towns in the county or statewide that have refused to cooperate with any federal request to detain immigrants suspected of crimes.

Gannon, a former Boonton cop and investigator for the Morris County prosecutor, is in his first 100 days as sheriff.

He agreed it’s important to maintain immigrants’ trust–to protect them from being victimized–and added he has no plans, for now, at least, to certify his officers as immigration agents under a program known as 287(g).

“We’re keeping all our options open, to see how we can deliver a better service to the folks up here, because it is about crime reduction, too,” he said, responding to Diane Du Brule, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

Under guidelines issued by the state attorney general a decade ago, law enforcement officers only can inquire about citizenship status when someone is suspected of committing a felony, Gannon said. Police cannot ask such questions of witnesses or families of suspects, he said.

But he reminded the audience of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old Morristown boy by an undocumented man in 2001, and he vowed to enforce laws to protect everyone.

“It’s not ‘enforce what you want,'” said Gannon, who heard praise from activists for calmly fielding their questions.

TESTY TO COMICAL

Officials in the audience included Morris Freeholder Director Doug Cabana, Morris Township Committeewoman Lois Johnson and Morristown council candidate Esperanza Poras-Field.

Exchanges ranged from testy to bizarre to comical.

One woman riled meeting organizers by attempting to ask Gannon why the Ku Klux Klan came to Morristown years ago to support the federal 287(g) program.

Another confessed to Agresti–the Just Facts founder whose statistics purported to link illegal immigrants to high crime rates–that her family came to America illegally, too… in 1620.

As people filed from the room, two men with opposing viewpoints aimed video cameras at each other, like gunslingers at the OK Corral.

County Tea Party President Carl Rupp, who tried to play peacemaker all night, shrugged when the event finally was over.

“No one got hurt,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

MORE IMMIGRATION COVERAGE

VIDEO DUEL at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
VIDEO DUEL at Tea Party talk in Morris County Library, March 28, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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4 COMMENTS

  1. And if Proof is provided, how/ will your opinion recant? Will the sarcasm and slander halt against opinion opposite yours? Nobody said ” mexican rapists are lurking at every corner”.. A desire for adhesion to law has nothing to do with “chest thumping politics”. There is a sincere fear and concern because the pervasive patterns are systemic. There are now Millions of illegals here with NO process. As citizens,students,employess,patients,teachers and all else- we require background checks. Why??? Why cant be just fabricate ID’s? Theres a purpose for screening. This level 1 deflection sounds more like justification and personal interests.
    Why stop with South America no borders? Lets Party..Why not let Iran, Iraq , Pakistan, Turkey and Russians immigrants fly in and do drop offs on top of the mountain? Where is the empathy for those immigrants with this siphoned milieu mentality? If is not at all about race.. Its about principle/law and protecting security of american citizens.

  2. The GO Putin party have some nerve talking about the “Legal” route with President Treason in the WH!

  3. Gannon and the “Just Facts” shill exemplify the whole #altfacts/Trumpism/No Real Truth movement.

    Morristown: “We’d like to be a sanctuary city, our police tell us they can do their job better if the undocumented in our town are not afraid of random deportation by the people they call to report crimes”

    Gannon: “When people are allowed to just…be hidden from view, illegally committing crimes, and people are not cooperating with the federal government, whether they’re from a local municipality or whatever, I think that’s bad business.”

    Morristown: “We never said we wouldn’t let our police go after people that commit crimes. This is not a get out of jail free card if you’re undocumented. You will go to jail for crimes no matter who you are.”

    Gannon: “When people are allowed to just…be hidden from view, illegally committing crimes, and people are not cooperating with the federal government, whether they’re from a local municipality or whatever, I think that’s bad business.”

    The playbook seems to be to just keep repeating that undocumented immigrants who commit crimes are somehow not going to be prosecuted in “sanctuary cities”. Until there’s some proof of that, I remain completely unconvinced that this is about anything other than chest-thumping law & order nonsense to whip scared voters into a frenzy. Shame that the sheriff feels a need to immerse himself so deeply in politics – that’s never a sign of a good law officer. His duty is to all people in his county, not just Tea Party folks that see mexican rapists lurking behind every corner.

  4. I like this guy. Too bad they can’t prosecute elected officials in sanctuary cities, like Morristown, for the harboring illegals.

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