Religious leaders condemn ‘scare tactics’ in election fliers

Wainstein fliers invoke ICE detentions and deportaitons

Residents may have seen this flier, or similar ones, distributed throughout North Bergen.
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Residents may have seen this flier, or similar ones, distributed throughout North Bergen.

Political fliers circulating through North Bergen from mayoral candidate Larry Wainstein’s campaign have caused unanimous disapproval from the New Jersey Coalition of Latino Priests and Latino Ministers (NJCLPLM), which represents 400 faith leaders across 21 counties in the state.

The fliers, according to NJCLPLM, draw a connection and imply collusion between North Bergen’s Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The flier, which includes a photo-shopped depiction of Sacco in an ICE uniform, reads:

“Sacco helps ICE. It’s true. Sacco and his friends at Hudson County jail take $19 million from ICE to lock up people like North Bergen residents and treat them like dogs. Children ripped away from mothers. The same way Sacco treats North Bergen hispanics.”

A local or county issue?

The funding from ICE that these fliers likely refer to is the 287(g) agreement made by the Hudson County Board of Freeholders to house immigrant detainees in exchange for $19 million in federal grants.

The county ended its controversial 287(g) agreement in early 2018. Yet, an unannounced rescheduling of the vote to renew the ICE contract indefinitely sparked months of protests at Board of Freeholder meetings. The vote was moved up from its planned August 2018 hearing to July 12, 2018, without adequately notifying residents. In September 2018, County Executive Tom DeGise announced his intent to pull out of the ICE contract by 2020.

The statement on the flier does not elaborate on how Sacco, in his capacity as a North Bergen official, has any influence over the county’s 287(g) agreement or any other policies pertaining to undocumented immigrants.

The flier goes on to promote Wainstein for mayor in the May 14 election.

Faith leaders call for apology

Members of NJCLPLM condemned what they deemed a “misuse of one of the most sensitive topics in Hudson County.” Reverend Bolivar Flores, a board member, called for an end to “scare tactics” surrounding deportation policy.

“We are unified in our outrage by Larry Wainstein, mayoral candidate for the Township of North Bergen, misusing issues of ICE, deportation, family separation, and inhumane immigration policies for personal political gain,” Flores said. “We are calling on all political candidates and elected officials to cease from using these kinds of insensitive scare tactics in their campaigns.”

The clergy members requested an apology for the fliers that were distributed around North Bergen.

“We ask that Mr. Wainstein publicly apologize to the thousands of North Bergen families that were impacted by this propaganda of hate and fear. NJLCLPM is a nonpartisan group of independent Latino pastors and ministers that endorse and advocate a social justice agenda.”

Flores later told The North Bergen Reporter that he was contacted by a North Bergen family about the fliers, and the coalition of priests and ministers unanimously voted to condemn them a few days later.

“I’m upset with the way this is being used politically,” Flores said. “We work very close with families who have dealt with incarcerations all the time. This topic should not be used this way for a local election.”

When asked about the message behind the fliers, Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Wainstein, said in a written statement: “Power Plant Sacco gave a 30 year tax abatement to a North Bergen-located, New York-supplying power plant which will spew 5 million tons of birth defect cancer-causing lead into North Bergen air and water.”

According to EPA findings, that number is way off. In 1970, all forms of fuel combustion across the United States, from power plants to cars, emitted 200,000 tons of lead. In 2011, nationwide lead emissions were less that 1,000 tons.

Primarily, emissions from power plants that are of environmental concern are carbon dioxide, methane, and ground-level ozone.

Sheinkopf did not expand further on the fliers, or how a power plant could emit five million tons of lead annually, when asked to clarify that statement.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com, or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.