TRENTON – The proposed state budget includes a further increase in what the state spends on legal representation for detained immigrants facing deportation.
This appropriation is now flowing through the State Department of Human Services, which last year established an Office of New Americans, and was therefore among the hot topics of discussion during the Assembly Budget hearing for the agency held Monday.
MP Hal Wirths said taxpayers are paying for both prosecution and defense in eviction cases – $ 6.2 million in the current budget, $ 8.2 million in the coming year.
“We are taking $ 15 million of taxpayer dollars and using it to defend the undocumented workers who are here illegally, paying both sides. It just doesn’t make sense, ”Wirths said.
“He’s a lose-lose,” he said. “Taxpayers pay on the prosecution side for law enforcement and judges and prosecutors doing their jobs, and taxpayers pay on the other side on the defense side.”
MP John McKeon says it’s no different from the criminal justice system.
“The taxpayer pays for an attorney. The other side, I guess, is the defendant. The taxpayer, if necessary, pays for a public defender, ”McKeon said. “And I think the judge is supposed to be neutral.”
Acting Social Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said the goal was to make the state welcoming to all people, not to prioritize one population over another.
“I think we are paying for both parties to ensure that all people have due process,” Adelman said.
In the budget documents, the Department of Social Services said there were approximately 5,300 people detained in New Jersey in 2019 and of these approximately 1,500 received some form of legal screening and 857 were represented through of the publicly funded program.
The number of detentions declined during the COVID public health emergency, and the state said more than 1,000 people were assisted under the program between fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
“In general, our holding figures have been stable for several years. However, we believe these numbers will increase over the coming year, ”Adelman said.
Wirths said there were more appropriate uses for what Gov. Phil Murphy spends on the program.
“The budget is built on federal funds, borrowed funds, a raid on a rainy day fund, and yet it prioritizes illegal immigration over law-abiding citizens to the tune of $ 15 million in the world. over the past two years, ”Wirths said.
Assembly member Benjie Wimberly D-Passaic said undocumented immigrants greatly contribute to New Jersey communities, financially and otherwise – and that the word ‘illegal’ should not be used to refer to people .
“The term ‘illegal’ is something that I think should be removed from the administration or anyone else with respect to people in general. It shouldn’t be used, ”Wimberly said.
Michael Symons is the State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].
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