Aid to Immigrants Not Improper, Officials Say

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January 22, 2011; Source: Express-Times | Warren County, Penn. officials launched a brief investigation into the work of a local community action group’s efforts to help immigrants during the school district's re-registration drive last fall. The investigation turned up no wrongdoing on the part of the group, NORWESCAP.

When the Phillipsburg, New Jersey school system attempted to verify the citizenship of immigrant kids in the school system NORWESCAP provided assistance, including contacting the Mexican consulate for help. In response, a former member of the Warren County Community College board of trustees, Harry Brown, decided something was amiss and contacted the Warren County Board of Freeholders asking for an investigation and the county's termination of funding to the agency. NORWESCAP received $144,000 in county funds for running a food bank, providing homeless outreach, and offering child-care services.

The county's investigation turned up not a scintilla of improper, much less illegal, activity on the part of the community action agency. What did Brown think was going on? That NORWESCAP was involved in a clandestine plot to smuggle undocumented immigrants into unsuspecting Warren County and run a back office operation printing falsified green cards? Did he think the Mexican consulate was surreptitiously advising NORWESCAP about the design and format of the papers? Brown's motives seem to have been run-of-the-mill anti-immigrant bias.

Even when informed that the Freeholders found nothing illegal in NORWESCAP's services, Brown wasn't satisfied. Referring to immigrants in affluent Warren County, Brown opined, "When they're coddled and they’re given services, it’s much more difficult to get rid of them . . . We're acting as a magnet. We're just attracting them more."

Congratulations to the Warren County freeholders for standing up to the anti-immigrant sentiment. And congratulations to NORWESCAP for upholding its mission of serving the poor people of Northwest New Jersey, regardless of their race or heritage.—Rick Cohen