ACLU-NJ Urges Christie to Retain State’s Role in Refugee Settlement

Letter and records requests were sent to governor and agency responsible for refugees, Who Are Most heavily vetted of all people coming to U.S.

The ACLU-NJ sent a letter on May 3 urging Governor Christie to reverse his administration's decision to terminate the State's role in resettling refugees who have fled to escape untenable conditions in their own countries. The ACLU-NJ filed public records requests with state agencies seeking details about the decision to place resettlement responsibilities solely in the hands of private organizations.

The letter (PDF) and Open Public Records Act (PDF) request went to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and a second records request (PDF) was sent to the New Jersey Department of Human Services' Division of Family Development, which has been responsible for coordinating New Jersey's resettlement of refugees.

"Governor Christie's divisive and inflammatory rhetoric against refugees has been a stark contrast to New Jersey's long tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and violence overseas," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. "This is not who we are as Americans, and this is not who we are as New Jerseyans. We call on Governor Christie to stop scapegoating the very people fleeing violence and civil war and to restore New Jersey's tradition of opening its arms to people escaping persecution."

In April, the New Jersey Department of Human Services sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement providing notice that New Jersey would stop playing a role in resettling refugees, transferring those duties to private nonprofit organizations. The ACLU-NJ's letter exhorted Christie to reverse the decision, which followed his announcement in November that New Jersey would no longer settle Syrian refugees. The organization's OPRA request sought information about the decision, including correspondence regarding refugees, details about the number of staff working on refugee resettlement, meeting minutes, and other records regarding refugees.

"It seems that rather than help resettle any Syrian refugees, Christie decided to cut the state out of placement of refugees at all," said ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero. "By definition, these are people fleeing places that are so dangerous that their lives are at risk just by staying. The Constitution forbids discrimination based on national origin, so Christie just turned his back on people of all nationalities. It demonstrates a lack of compassion and an abandonment of our historical role as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world."

The ACLU has long advocated for the rights of refugees, who are fleeing some of the world's most horrific conditions and subjected to the most intensive screening process of all immigrants to the United States. The process takes between 18 to 24 months on average, according to the U.S. State Department.

"Our country has long been a refuge for families in desperate need of safety, and most Americans are deeply proud of that history," said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin. "Unfortunately, with refugees' lives hanging in the balance, Governor Christie's decision seems rooted in a political desire to be seen as unwelcoming to immigrants, even if it means betraying our most important values."

The ACLU-NJ's letter to Christie and public records requests are available to read online.

The ACLU-NJ sent a letter on May 3 urging Governor Christie to reverse his administration’s decision to terminate the State’s role in resettling refugees who have fled to escape untenable conditions in their own countries. The ACLU-NJ filed public records requests with state agencies seeking details about the decision to place resettlement responsibilities solely in the hands of private organizations.

The letter and Open Public Records Act request went to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and a second records request was sent to the New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Family Development, which has been responsible for coordinating New Jersey’s resettlement of refugees.

“Governor Christie’s divisive and inflammatory rhetoric against refugees has been a stark contrast to New Jersey’s long tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and violence overseas,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “This is not who we are as Americans, and this is not who we are as New Jerseyans. We call on Governor Christie to stop scapegoating the very people fleeing violence and civil war and to restore New Jersey’s tradition of opening its arms to people escaping persecution.”

In April, the New Jersey Department of Human Services sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement providing notice that New Jersey would stop playing a role in resettling refugees, transferring those duties to private nonprofit organizations. The ACLU-NJ’s letter exhorted Christie to reverse the decision, which followed his announcement in November that New Jersey would no longer settle Syrian refugees. The organization’s OPRA request sought information about the decision, including correspondence regarding refugees, details about the number of staff working on refugee resettlement, meeting minutes, and other records regarding refugees. 

“It seems that rather than help resettle any Syrian refugees, Christie decided to cut the state out of placement of refugees at all,” said ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero. “By definition, these are people fleeing places that are so dangerous that their lives are at risk just by staying. The Constitution forbids discrimination based on national origin, so Christie just turned his back on people of all nationalities. It demonstrates a lack of compassion and an abandonment of our historical role as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world.”

The ACLU has long advocated for the rights of refugees, who are fleeing some of the world’s most horrific conditions and subjected to the most intensive screening process of all immigrants to the United States. The process takes between 18 to 24 months on average, according to the U.S. State Department.

“Our country has long been a refuge for families in desperate need of safety, and most Americans are deeply proud of that history,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin. “Unfortunately, with refugees’ lives hanging in the balance, Governor Christie’s decision seems rooted in a political desire to be seen as unwelcoming to immigrants, even if it means betraying our most important values.”

The ACLU-NJ’s letter to Christie and public records requests to the Office of the Governor and DHS Division of Family Development are available to read online.

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