The Impact of Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” Policy on New Jersey Campaign 2018


Yesterday was a very difficult Father’s Day for me.

I spent much of the day thinking about my beloved late father, Melvin Steinberg. He was a clothing manufacturer’s representative in Western Pennsylvania. One of my father’s favorite customers was the Glosser Brothers store in Johnstown, Pa. The Glossers, Jewish immigrants from Belarus were great people of business success and charitable beneficence.

Unfortunately, one of the Glosser descendants is Stephen Miller, the contemptible, despicable architect of Zero Tolerance, Trump’s policy of separating refugee children from parents at the Mexican border. This is the cruelest and most inhumane policy implemented by the Federal government over the past fifty years.

The best description of the horrific impact of this policy was given this past weekend by the nationally renowned pediatrician, Dr. Edwin Redlener, professor at Columbia University and co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund. He stated unequivocally that separating immigrant children from their parents constitutes child abuse.

Dr. Redlener is profoundly correct. Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy is child abuse, plain and simple. And the chief implementer of this national policy of abusing immigrant children is Donald J. Trump. Indeed, Donald Trump is our National Child-Abuser-in-Chief. As a father and grandfather, I am sickened beyond belief by this policy.

Trump is trying to disclaim responsibility by saying that a law previously passed by a Democratic Congress mandates the Zero Tolerance border separation policy. This is a vile lie, another falsehood made by the most mendacious president in American history. There is nothing in any regulation or statute that mandates this policy, implicitly or explicitly.

Both presidents Obama and Bush 43 rejected any policy of separating children from their parents at the border. But our Child-Abuser-in-Chief, Donald Trump, advised by his in house nativist extremist, Stephen Miller, is implementing this policy of xenophobic child abuse. Trump has complete discretion to rescind this policy at any time. He won’t, however – he is literally holding these children hostage to get Congress to authorize money for his wall.

And nationally, the American public overwhelmingly and vehemently reject this sadistic policy. A Quinnipiac Poll released today shows American voters rejecting the Trumpian Zero Tolerance policy, 66-27. Republicans support this policy, 55-35.

Translated: In the House and Senate elections this November, the GOP will retain their Trumpian base, but that’s all they will win. The Democrats will win control of the House, gaining at least 40 seats, and their chances of winning control of the Senate increase every day.

In New Jersey, the impact of Zero Tolerance on Campaign 2018 is clear. This is the last nail in the political coffin of the Republican Congressional campaign of Jay Webber, an ultimate Trump acolyte. Mikie Sherrill can now start mailing invitations for her Congressional inauguration in January, 2019.

For the Republican US Senate candidate Bob Hugin, this is another day he must devote to separating himself from Donald Trump on a critical policy matter, immigration. Two years ago, Hugin fervently supported The Donald at a time when the central plank of Trump’s campaign was anti-immigration.

This creates two serious, and likely fatal problems for the Hugin campaign. First is a growing Hugin credibility problem. If he was so different from Trump on political and moral issues, then why did he support him so enthusiastically in the first place?

The second is a growing alienation of Hugin from the Trump base. He already has alienated its anti-abortion sector, and now he will be repudiating the xenophobic, anti-immigrant sector as well. If the Bob Hugin campaign was a stock, I would recommend a massive short sale. For incumbent US Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, Bob Hugin is the gift that keeps on giving.

The two House candidates most affected by the Zero Tolerance scandal are Republican incumbents Tom MacArthur and Leonard Lance.

I had originally forecast a reelection victory by Tom MacArthur, the most pro-Trump member of the New Jersey House of Representatives delegation. His failure to repudiate the Trump Zero Tolerance policy, however, endangers his chances.

MacArthur has endorsed legislation which he portrays as a comprehensive immigration reform solution. That is a subject for another column.

For now, Trump’s inhumane policy of Zero Tolerance continues every day. Until Tom MacArthur repudiates it, the voters in his Third District may well deem him to be advocating it. This could result in his losing a substantial share of independent and even center-right voters.

By contrast, Leonard Lance has been a profile in courage on the immigration issue. He was the only New Jersey Republican Congressman to repudiate the Trumpian Zero Tolerance policy. Lance’s support for the discharge petition was a major factor in the Trump-cowed GOP House leadership finally relenting and agreeing to place on the voting list immigration reform legislation containing some measure of citizenship opportunities for DACA beneficiaries, however inadequate it may be.

The Zero Tolerance controversy highlights for his constituents Leonard Lance’s fairness, intellect, compassion, and above all, his courage. This increases his likelihood of a reelection victory.

A final personal note: I will always be proud to have served as Region 2 EPA Administrator in the administration of George W. Bush. And I couldn’t be prouder of First Lady Laura Bush and her authorship of her Washington Post column today, “Separating children from their parents at the border breaks my heart.” Today, Laura Bush acted in a way to show the world that in spite of Trump, America retains its core values of humaneness, compassion and decency.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.

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