New Jersey Governor Creates New Office to Help Immigrants and Takes Back Control of Refugee Resettlement

Gov. Phil Murphy marked the Fourth of July holiday by announcing two new initiatives to assist immigrants settling in New Jersey.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
(AP/Julio Cortez)
By David Levinsky

Gov. Phil Murphy marked the Fourth of July holiday by announcing two new initiatives to assist immigrants settling in New Jersey.

The Democratic governor says New Jersey will once again take the lead role in overseeing the resettlement of refugees in the state, which his Republican predecessor, Chris Christie, had relinquished in 2016.

Murphy also signed an executive order directing the state Department of Human Services and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to work together on immigrant and refugee integration programs and to create a new Office of New Americans to provide assistance to them.

Murphy, who announced the new initiatives during an address at a naturalization ceremony aboard the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, said the actions stand in stark contrast to those by President Donald Trump's administration, which he criticized for its actions to try to turn away refugees seeking admission into the U.S.

"While the federal government takes action that prevents immigrants from seeking the American Dream, New Jersey will fight for our brothers and sisters and stand against hatred and bigotry coming from Washington," Murphy said in a statement. "Immigrants are an integral part of our state and enrich our communities socially, culturally and economically. Through these new measures, we will continue to sustain our progress to build a fair and inclusive state for all."

He said his administration has notified the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement that the state intends to take back oversight of refugee resettlement after Christie ended the state's involvement in 2016.

Christie's action did not stop refugees from resettling here, but it did prompt the nonprofit International Rescue Committee to take control of the program, which provides cash assistance, medical help, case management, employment help and other social services to refugees resettling in the state.

The planned Office of New Americans would be the first statewide office and would focus on assisting immigrants and ensuring they have access to social services and jobs, the governor said.

"New Jersey is and always will be a welcoming state -- no matter the rhetoric or attempts to divide us coming from Washington," said New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. "The Murphy administration is committed to welcoming new Americans as our neighbors, colleagues and friends, and New Jersey Human Services stands ready to help all new New Jerseyans make our state a more vibrant and prosperous place to live."

(c)2019 Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.