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Exclusive Interview: In final days of campaign, Phil Murphy takes strong stance on DACA

Democratic Candidate in the race for New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, sat down for an exclusive interview with The Daily Targum to discuss policies regarding immigration and economics. – Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez

As election day approaches, Phil Murphy, the Democratic contender for New Jersey governor, spoke at a local New Brunswick restaurant in an attempt to spread a message to make sure voters, including millennials, turn out to the polls.

In an interview with The Daily Targum, the former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs executive vowed to address the rising costs of college tuition, protect young undocumented immigrants in the state and challenge certain <g>policies</g> of the administration of President Donald J. Trump through legal action.

“I have a lot of interest in defending the interests of all 9 million residents of the state of New Jersey,” Murphy said.

The Democratic candidate for governor indicated that one of the chief interests of New Jersey residents, and especially younger generations, is college affordability. 

Along with proposing free tuition in all of the state’s community colleges and more investment in higher education, Murphy wants to implement an incentive-driven program to make sure New Jerseyans study and work in the state.

“You convince someone to stay in New Jersey, go to college, major in a field that we’re emphasizing, work in that field and then forgive x thousands of dollars of their loan,” he said.

Murphy is facing Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in an election that is being touted as a referendum on the legacy of Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). The election will take place on Nov. 7.

In the final stretch of the campaign, high-profile figures in the Democratic Party — including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — have stumped for the gubernatorial hopeful in the Garden State.

The Garden State election has national implications because it is one of only two races in November. 

In Virginia, the competitive race between the state’s Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican politician Ed Gillespie has, to some extent, turned into a continuous debate over Trump’s policies and rhetoric, particularly on immigration, according to The New York Times. 

Gillespie, echoing one of the commander-in-chief’s most common talking points, accused his opponent of being weak on illegal immigration and allowing the resurgence of the translational gang MS-13, according to The Washington Post.

In the weeks before voters head to the polls to elect New Jersey’s next governor, immigration has also become a prominent theme on the campaign trail, with Guadagno employing some political rhetoric out of the Trump playbook.

Murphy’s opponent has made a turn toward the right as it pertains to immigration in the waning days of the campaign in an apparent last-ditch attempt to galvanize more conservative voters, according to Politico. 

In a television ad, the Guadagno campaign accused Murphy of trying to harbor criminals with his promise to make New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”

Murphy said his words had been twisted by Guadagno and that she would have to “live with” the divisive rhetoric he said she has been flaunting if she loses. He emphasized that Christie’s second-in-command wrongly equated criminals with all immigrants.

“I find it highly offensive. She knows exactly what she is doing. She’s trying to divide us. She’s trying to split communities apart. She’s trying to suppress voting participation,” Murphy said. “I think it’s heinous, unacceptable.”

Murphy downplayed the role of his election in national politics, stressing that he is specifically focused on the well-being of New Jersey. He said he would attempt to work with the White House on areas of possible agreement, like infrastructure, but that he would vigorously oppose any <g>policies</g> that he perceived to be detrimental to the state.

“It will probably mean standing up and doing battle, legally and otherwise, against a lot of stuff that’s happening in Washington that we can’t allow (to) <g>happen</g> in New Jersey,” he said.

An instance in which Murphy said he would seek legal action would be if Congress fails to pass legislation that ratifies the protections for young undocumented immigrants granted by the now-terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

The work authorizations of nearly a million so-called DREAMers, including approximately 450 Rutgers students, will begin to expire next year, and they will be prohibited from renewing.

The gubernatorial hopeful said he would be willing to take the issue to the Supreme Court of the United States if need be.

Murphy has a 20-point lead over Guadagno among likely voters, according to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University. The former ambassador’s support stands at 57 percent, while his Republican opponent is backed by 37 percent of likely voters.

Despite his seemingly dominant lead in the polls, Murphy warned his supporters in New Brunswick of the dangers of complacency, citing the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last summer and Trump’s win in November as glaring examples of unexpected outcomes.

“People ask me all the time: ‘Are you in a good place?’ I say ‘Yeah, I think we’re in a good place,’” he said. “I also thought the Brits were going to stay in Europe, and Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president of the United States.’” 

Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloreports.

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