Frank J. Provenzano, the sheriff since 2002 of Somerset County, New Jersey, takes his oath seriously. He encourages his colleagues in other counties and states to do likewise.
Integrity is key for Provenzano both personally and professionally — and the lifelong Somerset County resident’s email signature even includes a quote about this defining characteristic.
“Many, many times, I put my left hand on the Bible and raised my right hand. I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States along with the Constitution of the state of New Jersey,” he told LifeZette in an interview on Thursday. “And I’d be violating my oath — sworn oath — if I didn’t do what I’m supposed to be doing with immigration laws and violations and working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
This is not Provenzano’s first rodeo: He’s worked in law enforcement for nearly half a century. He joined the Bridgewater Township Police Department in 1968 — retiring as captain of the administrative division in 2001.
It’s this lifetime of law enforcement experience, coupled with his commitment to the Constitution, that contributed to Provenzano’s decision to add his name to a recent letter from the National Sheriffs’ Association.
The letter calls on Congress to take immediate action to promote border security and inhibit “sanctuary policies [that] directly undermine and limit cooperation and collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement, making it harder for America’s sheriffs to protect our citizens and legal residents.”
Over 300 sheriffs in 40 states signed this March 21 letter. Signatories in Provenzano’s home state include Sheriff Fred W. Brown of Hunterdon County and Sheriff Shaun Golden of Monmouth County, among others. Sheriff Bob Nolan of Cape May is in the process of adding his name to the letter (stay tuned for a future LifeZette article about him).
Provenzano is working with Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts — the officer who spearheaded the National Sheriffs’ Association’s efforts — to encourage as many sheriffs as possible to add their names.
Unlike some law enforcement officers in sanctuary states such as California, Provenzano makes sure that in Somerset County, at least, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) receives 100 percent cooperation.
“At our county jail, we have ICE agents coming in maybe three or four times a week,” he said.
Provenzano explained that ICE agents interview detainees suspected of being illegal aliens. If asked to hold prisoners for 48 hours after they’d be released on local charges, the sheriff’s office will do that — and then turn them over to ICE for deportation.
Provenzano emphasized he does not want to see another tragedy such as the one the Steinle family endured. In July of 2015, Kate Steinle was killed by a man who was not a legal citizen of the United States. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been deported five times before he shot and killed the 32-year-old on a San Francisco pier as she was strolling there with her father.
“I’m totally against it,” the sheriff said flatly when asked about his take on Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s support for immigration proposals — including making New Jersey. a sanctuary state.
“This is a country of immigrants. You go through it the right way like my grandparents did, and there’s no problem.”
“As long as I’m in service to the county, I will abide by my sworn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. That answers that question,” Provenzano added.
As a second-generation immigrant himself, Provenzano strongly supports legal immigration.
“My grandparents came through Ellis Island. They came from Italy. They did it the legal way.”
“This is a country of immigrants. You go through it the right way like my grandparents did, and there’s no problem,” he added.
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.