Lonegan, former Bogota Mayor and former state director of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, was one of six candidates to file to run in October’s special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). In a press release, campaign tweets, and Facebook posts, he noted that he had “left a voicemail” at Chiesa’s Washington office encouraging a no vote on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. “This legislation is a pure and simple amnesty for illegal aliens and if I were a member of the U.S. Senate, I would vote no,” he added.
Lonegan’s has been a longstanding anti-immigrant activist. He called for a boycott of McDonald’s in 2006 after the company posted a Spanish-language ad for its iced coffee on a billboard. The message, Lonegan claimed, was “offensive” and divisive” as it sent a message that immigrants need not learn English. He pushed unsuccessfully for a referendum to declare English the official language of Bogota, New Jersey. He also sought to use local police to enforce immigration law and attacked then Gov. Jon Corzine’s (D) proposals for a state DREAM Act “chock-full of left-wing nonsense that would make this state a magnet for undocumented or illegal workers.”
In 2007, however, police discovered two undocumented immigrants were illegally working at a home owned by Lonegan. At the time, he said it was not his job to “racially profile employees” who spoke Spanish and conceded, “These guys need the money.”
But the experience did little to moderate Lonegan’s rhetoric or views: in his unsuccessful 2009 campaign for governor, he tweeted, “I believe illegal immigrants should not receive government services and should be deported.” That year, his campaign proudly shared an endorsement from the extremist anti-immigrant vigilante Minuteman Project’s founder Jim Gilchrist, who said, “Steve Lonegan and I worked together to stop the illegal alien invasion in our country now being facilitated by Barack Obama.”