‘Sanctuary State’ Governor Faces Backlash From Pro-Illegal Immigration Groups Over COVID-19 Relief Benefits

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Pro-immigration groups are upset with Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a sanctuary state, for not pushing harder to get illegal immigrants COVID-19 relief benefits.

Groups representing legal and illegal immigrants, who once supported Murphy’s candidacy and policies, are now criticizing the governor for what they perceive as stinginess with COVID-19 relief cash, according to Politico.

“There’s a political calculation from [Murphy’s] team that they don’t want to talk about immigrants,” Patricia Campos-Medina, president of the group LUPE Action, told Politico. LUPE PAC, the political action committee associated with LUPE Action, endorsed Murphy’s candidacy for governor in 2017.

In 2018, Murphy announced he would create a state agency to protect the rights of legal and illegal immigrants. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, but Murphy’s attorney general ordered local law enforcement not to cooperate with federal immigration agents. (RELATED: Trump Administration Backs Lawsuit Against New Jersey’s Anti-ICE Rules)

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy considered making illegal immigrants eligible for a $600 per week unemployment check, according to NJ.com. Protestors demanded relief in July 2020, arguing that illegal immigrants contributed $600 million in taxes to New Jersey annually, NorthJersey.com reported. Detractors of the bills expressed concern over their cost.

Murphy has continued to legislate as a governor supportive of illegal immigrants. Murphy signed a law in 2019 making illegal immigrants eligible to receive drivers’ licenses. He also signed a bill in September 2020 that allows illegal immigrants to receive professional licenses, including jobs in medicine and social work, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Despite the legislation, activists are not content with Murphy’s performance. “Latinx immigrants and our families have been left behind from nearly every form of aid,” Deyanira Aldana, lead organizer at Make the Road New Jersey, which endorsed Murphy in 2017, told Politico.