Pallone roundtable touches on numerous issues, Trump administration

With cups of coffee in hand and journalists ready to listen and ask questions, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-Middlesex, Monmouth) served as the host to a media reporters roundtable discussion over breakfast recently in Keyport.

“With [President Donald Trump] and Republican policies having a negative impact on New Jersey, one, of course, is the tax plan which removes (certain property tax) deductions for New Jersey families,” Pallone said. “The administration wants to take enforcement grants away from New Jersey, and of course, there is the offshore drilling, which is an ongoing problem.”

Sitting during the breakfast that was held at the IHOP on Route 36 in Keyport on Aug. 6,  Pallone said Trump has sought to repeal and sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and to alter policies and legislation that pertain to the environment and immigration, specifically the recent situation in which children were separated from the adults who brought them across the southern U.S. border without proper documentation.

However, Pallone said Congress is still making progress on issues pertaining to New Jersey.

“We got the Supreme Court to basically overrule the federal prohibition on sports betting, which helps our area. We passed an opioid package, which could have been better, but did have some good points in it,” the Congressman said.

“Democrats and Republicans are united on the opposition of offshore drilling (off the coast of New Jersey). We just extended the flood insurance program, which I know particularly concerns the Bayshore (area of Monmouth County), although I do think we need a long-term solution,” he said.

Pallone said he hopes that after the November election, Democrats will hold a majority in Congress which could lead to more bipartisan efforts on legislative matters.

On the subject of gun control, Pallone said, “We are going to introduce legislation to prohibit the (printing) of 3D guns. We can’t actually prevent people from producing them, but (attempt to) prevent the printing of the documents that show people how to do it.”

Pallone said Congress has been pushing for what he called common sense initiatives in order to address gun control, including universal background checks for individuals who seek to purchase a gun, banning firearms that are referred to assault weapons, addressing loopholes in gun show regulations, and more.

“The Republican leadership and the president won’t address them, they are not up for any of that, they won’t even post the bills even though they would all pass overwhelmingly. … So what I say is that since there is no consensus, you can’t even do those things we have been talking about for years, but the issue has moved on now,” Pallone said.

“The 3D [gun issue] points out that with the technological advances, we are going to have to be vigilant about gun safety on a regular basis because of new technology,” he said.

Pallone said that when he visited a detention center in Elizabeth in June, he met with fathers who were separated from their children as they tried to enter the United States from Mexico.

He said representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services told him government officials did not keep records of which child belonged to which family and that as of Aug. 6 the separation issue had not been resolved.

On the issue of sanctuary cities, Pallone said, “I think that basically what the Trump administration is saying is that unless you fully cooperate with everything we want you to do (in terms of immigration enforcement), you are a sanctuary city, which is absurd.”

Pallone said some officials in New Jersey are afraid their municipalities will lose law enforcement grants because the Trump administration deems them to be a sanctuary city. He said some municipalities have complied with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but disagree on certain points of law.

“Whether it’s a city, a county or a state, they have to be able to have some discretion and not just do what ICE tells them to do because a lot of times ICE may in fact be overstepping its bounds,” the congressman said.

Pallone said he has helped to propose the Indonesian Protection Act to help refugees who are seeking political asylum in the United States. 

With Indonesia being a predominantly Muslim country, Pallone said many Christians fled to the United States to escape religious persecution. Unaware there was a one-year statute of limitations for political asylum, many Indonesians for the last 20 years have been trying to get the courts to waive the one-year statute.

The bill “would basically say they could apply for asylum and waive the statute. Now beyond that, [what] the president has been doing … is basically trying to eliminate for the most part political asylum as a basis for coming here and seeking refuge in the United States,” Pallone said. 

Under previous administrations, Pallone said, Indonesians were left alone “because they were escaping persecution; maybe they can’t be (U.S.) citizens, but we don’t want to send them back because they might be killed. Of course, when Trump came into office it was open season, detain them [and] send them back.” 

Pallone said Trump unveiled an infrastructure initiative that was hollow because it had no federal dollars. As part of the Democratic House of Representatives platform for November, Pallone said he has helped to propose a more than $1 trillion infrastructure initiative that will be paid for with federal money.

Commenting on the environment, the congressman said, “The environment has probably had more damage done to it than any other issue, that is the scariest thing. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, everything has been cut back … so many environmental protections have been weakened either through legislative action or through executive orders or through agency rulings that it’s downright scary.”

Pallone said Trump has been able to take certain actions because President Barack Obama instituted some environmental policies through executive orders and not through legislation in Congress. He said Trump has repealed certain executive orders Obama issued. 

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.