Politics

Hunterdon ‘Is Not Going to Be a Sanctuary County as Long as I’m Sheriff’

In an interview with LifeZette, New Jersey law enforcement chief affirms a commitment to uphold the Constitution and protect his citizens, come what may

“I feel very strongly about this. I feel that it’s the right thing to do,” said Fred W. Brown in an interview with LifeZette on Tuesday.

Brown is the sheriff of Hunterdon County, New Jersey — and he was referring to strengthening the security of our country.

“We need Congress to support law enforcement. The president is very supportive of law enforcement, fortunately,” he added about Donald J. Trump. “And we’ve noticed a big turnaround in support for law enforcement [since the election]. We need that. America needs that.”

Hundreds of elected officials — members of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) — implored Congress in late March to take action to secure our nation’s borders, citing safety concerns for the citizens they serve. Sheriffs from 40 states — including Brown — signed the March 21 letter.

“It’s not only important for Hunterdon County, but also for America,” Brown said, referring to the letter.

The NSA, said Brown, will be appending more signatories to that list soon. One of them will be a New Jersey colleague of Brown’s from Cape May County, Sheriff Bob Nolan. Other New Jersey sheriffs who already signed the letter include Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden and Somerset County Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano.

“Because Congress has failed to enact the necessary reforms, our citizens and legal residents face even greater dangers, our national security is more vulnerable, and our enforcement efforts have been seriously compromised,” the letter stated.

Sheriff Fred W. Brown of Hunterdon County. He told LifeZette, “I have nothing against immigration as long as it’s done legally.”

Brown, a lifelong resident of Hunterdon County, was elected to his current position in 2010 after many years of serving his community (he also spent seven years in the U.S. Naval Reserves). As a sheriff who is now facing the prospect of serving in what may become a sanctuary state — as California already is — Brown wholeheartedly agrees with the letter’s tenets.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, inaugurated in January, already has expressed his openness to making New Jersey a sanctuary state. “Sanctuary” in this case refers to jurisdictions committed to actively thwarting or passively failing to enforce existing federal immigration law. One common example is refusing to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers a heads-up when a criminal in their custody is slated for release.

“We will stand up to this president,” Murphy said, as a NJ.com article noted. “If need be, we will be a sanctuary not just city, but state. This is America.”

Brown thoroughly disagrees. For this sheriff, the notion of sanctuary states or cities flies in the face of our Constitution, and their existence is not what America is about. Regardless of what Gov. Murphy has to say on the matter, Brown is having none of it.

“I’m a constitutional officer. I go by the Constitution,” Brown told LifeZette.

“I’m not just going to submit to ‘sanctuary county.’ If somebody’s here illegally, and ICE [has] warrants for [an] arrest, [that person] will be arrested,” he added.

“I have nothing against immigration as long as it’s done legally. So many immigrants want so dearly to be Americans, and they go through all the work and necessary training, learn the language, everything — and then here are people coming in illegally who are getting basically the same benefit.”

Related: Oft-Cited Rational for Sanctuary Policies Is a Myth

“I believe we need to go back to the Constitution,” Brown said flatly. “The only way people should be allowed in America is if they come in legally.”

Brown believes he and the citizens he serves as a constitutional officer are very fortunate that Hunterdon County is generally a safe county. More troubling and urgent to Brown, however, is the area’s “serious heroin problem,” he said — something he believes Congress can ameliorate by acting to strengthen border security.

“In Hunterdon County, there’s a serious heroin problem. By securing the borders, my hope would be that we’re going to make drugs a little bit less available … You have drugs coming in [across the U.S./Mexico border]. And that’s not saying that everyone who comes to America, obviously, is carrying drugs. But [by] the same token, people [who] want to bring drugs into America are doing it that way. They’re walking right across the border. It needs to be toughened up. It needs to be made safe.”

“[People] are walking right across the border. [Security] needs to be toughened up.”

About the other sheriffs, Brown said, “We’re all trying to do the same job. So we try to keep politics completely out of it. And to do what’s good for everybody, you know. And how the law reads.”

“We answer to the people, not necessarily to other politicians,” he added, noting that in the Sheriffs Association of New Jersey organization, which represents the state’s 21 counties, they were “right down the middle” in terms of members’ political affiliations.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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