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Activist Confronts Democrat Josh Gottheimer on Video for Funding Trump's War on Immigrants

'Never again' demands courage in the face of bigotry. This is cowardice."

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) discusses immigration policy with a constituent in video captured TK.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) discusses immigration policy with a constituent in video captured TK. (Image: screenshot)

A New Jersey man confronted a Democratic congressman Thursday on video over support for President Donald Trump's war on immigrants—and caught the conversation on video. 

'Never again' demands courage in the face of bigotry. This is cowardice."
—Samuel Finkelstein

Samuel Finkelstein, a progressive activist who is a student at Seton Hall University, told Common Dreams that he drove nearly 60 miles on Thursday from his home in New Jersey's 11th Congressional district to the 5th Congressional district to confront Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) at the congressman's appearance at the Blairstown Diner in Blairstown, New Jersey.

Finkelstein asked Gottheimer about Gottheimer's votes in favor of the president's border policies.

"I want to hold Gottheimer accountable for screwing the House Progressives on the emergency border funding bill," Finkelstein told Common Dreams. "N.J. voters want representatives who will stand up for undocumented Americans. There are thousands of undocumented people in N.J.-5, and Josh Gottheimer is failing to represent them."

In particular, Finkelstein wanted answers on why Gottheimer voted in favor of a June border funding omnibus bill that funneled nearly $5 billion into the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies, including what Finkelstein described as "concentration camps" that are holding detained migrants indefinitely in horrific conditions. Gottheimer also pushed to include anti-immigrant language into a gun control bill that passed the House earlier this year. 

"Why did you vote to fund Trump's concentration camps with no strings attached as far as, 'this has to go to humanitarian aid?'" Finkelstein asked Gottheimer. "We know that after that funding bill was passed, ICE said that they were building more camps."

"Obviously I have a very different perspective on that legislation," said Gottheimer, who told Finkelstein after confirming Finklestein was recording the encounter that Gottheimer would return with a binder to discuss the border funding bill and his reasons for voting for it.

"None of these guys are capable of defending anything they do without asking some aide to bring them a binder," said The New Republic's Alex Pareene.

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Gottheimer never returned to discuss the bill, said Finkelstein. Before leaving, however, the congressman added that he felt Finkelstein calling the border detention centers "concentration camps" was inappropriate because of the Holocaust, where both men lost family.

Finklestein said in a tweet describing the encounter that he found this excuse to be "a disgrace to the memory of those killed by the Nazis."

"'Never again' demands courage in the face of bigotry," said Finkelstein. "This is cowardice."

As Common Dreams reported on July 30, Gottheimer is facing a primary challenger, Arati Kreibich. In a Wednesday tweet reacting to Trump's latest assault on immigrants, this time in Mississippi where the administration targeted 680 migrants for detention, wrenching them away from their families, Kreibich took a different tone to the crisis from her opponent. 

"These raids don't make us any safer," Kreibich tweeted. "They terrorize communities and tear families apart. It's time for Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship so that families that have built lives here can stay."

Kreibich earned the support of one former Gottheimer intern, Brian O'Connor, who said in a tweet reacting to Finkelstein's video that he was "appalled" at Gottheimer's response.

"I interned for Josh in 2017 and I couldn't be more disappointed," said O'Connor. "I am donating to Arati Kreibich and you should too."

ReWire News editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson tweeted that Gottheimer was "a disgrace." 

"You are supporting concentration camps and your denial of this fact makes you as complicit as any person who ignored what was happening during the Holocaust," said Jacobson.

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