Where they stand: Local candidates speak out on the issues
When voters in the Greater MetroWest area go to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8, in addition to casting their votes for president, they will also voice their choices for members of the U.S. House of Representatives in the fifth, seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th, and 12th congressional districts. To help inform the voters, the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ sent incumbents and challengers seven questions.
The responses to three of these questions follow:
Immigration reform: Immigration reform is a major priority for both parties. What is your position on this issue? How should the United States deal with the humanitarian crisis facing Syria and the urgent refugee problem?
Iran oversight: The Jewish community views Iran as an existential threat. Now that the Iranian nuclear deal is in place, what should the United States and the international community be doing to provide proper oversight? Under what conditions would you conclude that Iran has breached the terms of the deal?
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: What do you feel is the appropriate role for the United States to play when it comes to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
CANDIDATES FOR DIST. 5
Rep. Scott Garrett (R)
Our nation’s immigration system is broken, and reforms are needed throughout. First and foremost, we must secure our borders and fix our legal immigration system. Currently, our system is complex and convoluted for those who are trying to legally navigate the process and in many cases reunite their families. We should instate meaningful reforms that make the programs work better for the citizens and businesses here in America and those trying to come here and make a better life for their children.
My heart goes out to all those suffering in Syria. The United States has a long history of protecting those who need protection. The safety and security of the American people is my top priority. Any refugees coming to America must be fully vetted to ensure that no risk is posed to our security. I want to work with our partners in the region to make sure that Syria is free of terrorism and in the hope that people can eventually return to their homes.
From the very beginning I have been a vocal opponent to the dangerous deal with Iran because it threatens the safety of America and our allies. Since the deal was enacted, we have seen little to no change in Iran’s behavior as they continue to break international agreements by testing ballistic missiles. As a member of the Iran Sanctions Conference Committee, I understand the importance of reauthorizing the sanctions on Iran. I will continue to push for stronger sanctions against Iran.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to tear families apart and must be resolved. The only way the conflict will be resolved is through direct bilateral negotiations. The United States should support constructive actions that lead to direct negotiations between the two parties, and oppose any declarations of Palestinian statehood by international organizations that would undermine the peace process.
Josh Gottheimer (D)
We need comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. I believe that we are a nation of immigrants and we can’t change the creed of this country. However, our first priority has to be the safety of our country and making sure that we are bringing in people who want to be here for the right reasons.
I had relatives in the Holocaust, so the idea that America can be a refuge for people who need to flee their home country is very important to me. The images we have seen coming out of Syria are simply heartbreaking and America must take a leadership role in putting an end to the atrocities committed by ISIS as soon as possible.
I wrote an op-ed this summer detailing my opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite knowing a number of individuals who were directly involved in its negotiation and who publicly support its implementation, I stand by what I said: The deal was not in the best security interests of the United States or Israel.
I explained in my op-ed that I opposed the deal for the following reasons:
1. The deal would not preclude Iran from developing a nuclear weapon;
2. The deal fails to prevent Iran from continuing to actively sponsor global terror; and
3. The deal releases billions of dollars to the Iranian regime while lifting the United Nations embargo on conventional arms and ballistic missiles.
The sum of these concessions is the undeniable possibility of an Iran that is nuclear and would become a regional economic and military superpower that could implement its will throughout the Middle East. Such a scenario would carry undeniably dire consequences for the United States and Israel alike, a prospect that I consider wholly unacceptable.
But now that it’s law, our best option is to move forward as advocates for tough, smart enforcement. Our oversight efforts must be thorough and diligent, and we must demonstrate that any violation, no matter how small, will not be tolerated. All options must be on the table, both economic and military.
Peace is not something that can be expected to come easily; it requires hard work, meaningful bilateral engagement, and dedicated empathy alongside an unflinching commitment to our values.
For the two-state solution to move forward, proactive steps must be taken by both sides. For the Palestinian Authority, this will involve ending their incendiary calls for violence. For Israel, recognition must be given to the PA as a negotiating partner.
Further, Israel and the PA can and must collaborate more broadly to isolate Hamas. Indeed, until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence, and accepts previous agreements, Hamas should be a pariah to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The U.S. will have to play an unparalleled role in ushering in a just, lasting peace. In the near term, aid from the U.S. to the PA should be made conditional on its commitment to isolating Hamas, condemning provocative violence, and pursuing bilateral collaboration.
The U.S. should also make clear that it will not be acting alone in its efforts, and that it will use its international weight to enlist the help of Arab nations in facilitating negotiation. This will involve the U.S. making clear that the Palestinian Authority will be held accountable and that it must remain a steadfast partner to the implementation of an internationally acceptable plan.
CANDIDATES FOR DIST. 7
Rep. Leonard Lance (R)
Immigration reform must be pursued once we have secured our borders. Only then should bipartisan reforms be enacted, including measures such as E-verify, to ensure that employers are hiring only American citizens and those here legally and not illegal immigrants. We should then examine measures to bring the 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows.
Concerning the Syrian refugee crisis, the United States has and should continue to be an international leader in humanitarian aid. We must, however, ensure that refugees coming to the U.S. are properly vetted. I agree with FBI director James Comey that our current vetting system has serious holes in it, which is why I have supported reforms that have passed the House of Representatives and that will ensure that those coming here under refugee status do not mean us any harm.
The United States and its allies need to be ever vigilant in ensuring that Iranians never possess a nuclear weapon. As cochair of the Republican Israel Caucus I know a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel, as well as our other allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia. That’s why I am a staunch opponent to the Iranian nuclear agreement. The Iranians have already breached the spirit of the deal by flouting U.S. and UN sanctions with ballistic missile tests, funding of terrorist organizations, and human rights abuses. The United States needs to cease concessions to Iran and increase sanctions through reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act, which expires at the end of this year
The United States should continue to strive for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians by encouraging both parties to come to the negotiating table. I, however, firmly oppose all attempts by the Palestinians to force an agreement through the United Nations. Outside parties imposing an agreement on Israel is not the answer to achieving lasting peace.
The United States should continue to stand up for Israel by vetoing any attempts by the Palestinians or other nations to force a settlement through the United Nations in our role as a permanent member of the Security Council.
Peter Jacob (D)
My parents are immigrants to this nation. At six months old, I was an immigrant to this nation. At some point, every single one of our families were as well. Immigrants are some of the hardest working believers in the American dream and repeatedly have driven our country and society forward throughout our history. We must provide a clear path to citizenship that does not bankrupt our would-be brothers and sisters, or cause any other undue burden, while allowing the U.S. to protect itself from those who aim to do harm.
The U.S. system for accepting refugees from Syria is strong to the point of being overly redundant. While our vigilance is necessary, it must be our duty as the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet to accept the poor, tired, huddled masses and live up to our most cherished ideals. We could and should expand our acceptance program by hiring new staff across all agencies to process refugee applications and allow the millions of innocent civilians whose lives have been ravaged by war a fair shot at the prosperity we all too often take for granted as Americans.
The international community must recognize the Iranian agreement as iron-clad and treat it as such. A country such as Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous on par with North Korea or worse. Nuclear proliferation is a global problem and must be treated by the global community. Regular, transparent UN inspections as well as coordinated efforts by allied intelligence agencies must be employed to ensure compliance with the agreement. I would conclude Iran has breached the terms of the deal if they are ever determined beyond a reasonable doubt to be working toward the construction of a nuclear weapon or weaponized nuclear material.
The U.S. is and must remain a staunch ally of Israel. We must remain a guiding and protective hand against those who wish to do any of our allies harm, while understanding that the conflict in this region dates back thousands of years, and that many people and groups of people hold the territory as sacred. We must recognize that a two-state solution and provision for all people to have equal access to life and prosperity are the ultimate paths toward lasting peace in the region.
CANDIDATES FOR DIST. 11
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R)
As of press time, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen had not turned in responses to our questions.
Joseph Wenzel (D)
The fabric of this country is interwoven with the threads of many nations. We need a path to citizenship that serves first and foremost the children of undocumented immigrants. We also need to re-evaluate the standards of achieving various levels of legal status. Additionally, we need to remove barriers that deny bringing in persons on H1B visas to inject them into our IT economy.
We should never turn our backs on those seeking refuge and relief from the horrors of war. The U.S. in the past had not encouraged such immigration resulting in part in their deaths at the hands of dictators and terror organizations. Long-term solution requires a peaceful political solution in Syria.
We have to be able to get into the nuclear facilities and regularly inspect the operations. While the U.S.-Iran deal is intended for such purposes, Iran has shown a reluctance already. The international community must support this as they have in the past with Iraq and North Korea. Failure to allow such inspections should result in freezing of funds and embargos of Iranian goods. If it is discovered that any program is reaching weapons status consideration should be given toward military options of increasing intensification.
The U.S. must serve as an active participant in the finalization of a two-state solution. However, the U.S. must ensure that Israel is protected and properly recognized by the Palestinian government. The U.S. should also exert pressure on the Palestinian side to reject terror and fringe groups from controlling their agenda.
CANDIDATES FOR DIST. 12
Steven Uccio (D)
As of press time, Steven Uccio had not turned in responses to our questions.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D)
I support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship and allowing undocumented workers to come out of the shadows, all while increasing border security. I also believe that a reform package must include visa reform that balances both family unification and employer needs.
I have been a strong supporter of international refugees, of current note due to an increase of families fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. Our nation has a responsibility to provide safe haven to refugees facing imminent threat in their home nations.
As a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, I am committed to improving our refugee screening process. The United States refugee screening program is the most rigorous protocol for any person trying to enter the United States, with security and medical screenings across multiple national security agencies. No refugee enters the United States through this program without fully and successfully completing this review, which takes between 18 and 24 months to complete.
However, there remain steps we can take to improve vetting for prospective entrants, improve efficiency, and increase the number of refugees served. I will continue to work to improve our refugee programs to maintain the strongest levels of national security and democratic values our nation was built on.
It is imperative that the United States and the international community remain vigilant in ensuring Iran never obtains nuclear weapons. A cornerstone of the Iran nuclear deal is the requirement of ongoing verification of Iran’s compliance with its commitments. Therefore, we must make sure that the IAEA has the resources necessary to detect any violation. Additionally, the United States retained the authority to snap back sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the agreement. To make clear the United States is serious about this threat, Congress must pass an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act to ensure the president has the tools necessary to punish Iran for any breach.
Israel is the United States’ most trusted ally in the Middle East, and maintaining a strong relationship between our democracies is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a threat to the entire region and requires appropriate attention as it relates to security concerns. The United States has a responsibility to support the defense of Israel and its citizens from military and terrorist threats. The United States also plays a critical role in brokering sustainable peace.