New Jersey gubernatorial candidate releases racist attack ad fear-mongering about sanctuary cities

"There’s always going to be an example in any population of somebody who does something awful."

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno (R). CREDIT: Julio Cortez/ AP
New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno (R). CREDIT: Julio Cortez/ AP

New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno (R) released an attack ad Wednesday night claiming Democratic opponent Phil Murphy’s stance on so-called “sanctuary cities” would lead to more rapists and criminal immigrants in the state.

The 30-second ad was released hours after Murphy said in a debate that he supported “sanctuary” policies to prevent local and state law enforcement officials from holding suspected undocumented immigrants for deportation proceedings.

In the ad, a narrator ominously claims that Murphy has “the backs of deranged murderers like Jose Carranza,” an undocumented immigrant from Peru who was charged with raping a five-year-old girl and shooting four black college students in 2007. Three of the four were killed “shattering their families,” the ad said, momentarily showing photos of the three smiling college kids.

Kim Guadagno's attack ad against Democratic opponent Phil Murphy for the New Jersey gubernatorial race, links the death of three college students to lenient immigration policies. CREDIT: Screengrab
Kim Guadagno's attack ad against Democratic opponent Phil Murphy for the New Jersey gubernatorial race, links the death of three college students to lenient immigration policies. CREDIT: Screengrab

In the next screen, the narrator says, “When asked about deporting criminal illegals, Phil Murphy said, ‘my bias is going to be toward having their back.'”

The narrator ends the clip by insisting that Murphy would make New Jersey a sanctuary for “deranged murderers like Carranza.”

That quote — taken out of context from a previous town hall at Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics — was given by Murphy in response to a question about Carranza’s case and whether he believed police should notify federal immigration agents about crimes involving undocumented immigrants.

“I think context would be the field is so tilted against DREAMers — against newly arrived immigrant brothers and sisters,” Murphy responded. “My bias is going be toward having their back because there’s always going to be an example in any population of somebody who does something awful or whatever it is in this case and a heinous level and I’m not denying that. But then we got to be careful not to extrapolate that and then throw a similar blanket over an entire a group of folks.”

Guadagno’s ad faced immediate backlash from immigrant advocates, Democrats, and the Star Ledger editorial board.

The Star Ledger accused Guadagno of “using distortion to fan fear of minorities and stir up the white vote,” including taking Murphy’s quotes out of context. It also drew references to Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush’s ad using convicted murder “Willie Horton” to accuse the Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis of being soft on crime.

Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee John Currie also criticized Guadagno of releasing a “trashy” and “blatantly misleading ad that peddles hatred and bigotry.”

“This latest ad is straight out of the playbook of Republican boogeyman Lee Atwater, and, pardon my language but, it’s a load of crap,” Currie added.

“Shame on Kim Guadagno for stooping to race baiting and fear-mongering to boost her fading campaign for governor,” New Jersey Working Families Alliance executive director Analilia Mejia said in an emailed statement. “Kim Guadagno’s ‘Sanctuary’ campaign ad traffics in racist tropes instead of facts. She is unfit to lead one of the most diverse states in the nation.”

As a former sheriff of Monmouth County, Guadagno enforced the federal 287(g) program which deputized local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration tasks. Yet, studies show that the federal 287(g) program not only degraded the trust between police and immigrant communities, but that it largely targets undocumented immigrants without criminal records. A 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report additionally found that the 287(g) program leaves too much discretion to the officers and that many participants reported concerns of racial profiling and intimidation by law enforcement officials.

Guadagno’s attack message squarely falls in lockstep with some of President Donald Trump’s fearmongering about undocumented immigrants. Between January and May, data reveals that the 44 percent of immigrants arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers had no criminal convictions.

Guadagno’s attack is reminiscent of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s recent ad attacking Democratic opponent Ralph Northam in Virginia. In that ad, Gillespie used Northam’s immigrant-friendly stance to claim that it could open up the state to more Central American MS-13 gang members in the state.