Supposed human rights champion Chris Smith was conspicuously absent from the recent “Families Belong Together” rallies. Smith was in New Jersey and could have easily attended, lending a senior GOP voice to right the wrongs that have been committed against innocent children and call for reunification. As usual however, Smith was afraid to make a forceful and public showing for something he claims to believe in.
This is normal for Smith, he will never spend political capital or risk angering the GOP base. During debate over the ACA repeal and tax overhaul, Smith released a statement and did nothing. To see this same meager effort when children are being taken from their parents is despicable.
Republican rationale for this policy doesn’t match the data. Family separation is not a deterrent; apprehensions held steady months after the policy was announced. Areas with higher concentrations of illegal immigrants do not have more crime, gang members rarely pose as asylum seekers, most gang recruitment occurs within the US, and the US is not experiencing an unprecedented wave of migration.
Surely Smith knows this, and his work shows he’s not racially motivated. Nonetheless, fear of the GOP base, which has been fed a steady diet of “dangerous job stealing immigrant” rhetoric, prevents him from acting.
Veteran Josh Welle, Smith’s opponent, attended a rally in Red Bank, several protests against family separation including a visit to Smith’s office, and went to the southern border to get a first-hand look. Welle understands backing up his words with actions, and standing up for what he believes in. He supports reform that acknowledges the economic realities of immigration and achieves border security without sacrificing our core values. That’s what leadership looks like, and it’s what we need in Washington.