Nutley Commissioner Steven L. Rogers is doing a lot more these days than just representing the people of his small Essex County township. In fact, he’s taken on a leadership role that he hopes will lead to a second term for President Donald J. Trump as a member of his advisory board in New Jersey called the America Winning Coalition.
And while the election is still a little less than two years away, he’s traveling the state, sharing the president’s goals for 2019.
Rogers, who was in Washington, D.C., at the White House Christmas party a few weeks ago with the president and First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, granted The Observer an exclusive look into what he sees are the top priorities for the president in the next 12 months.
It should come as no surprise that priority No. 1 — given the national discourse — is immigration.
“We are very concerned about sanctuary cities — and law enforcement agencies that are not cooperating with ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement),” the second-term Nutley Commissioner said. “The bottom line is if a person is an illegal immigrant, it’s illegal, they must be dealt with properly and must be deported once that process is over.
“It is against the law for them to be here — and they are not entitled to the benefits afforded legal immigrants and American citizens, whether it’s paying medical expenses, legal expenses, this all falls on the New Jersey taxpayers — and that simply isn’t fair. They’re breaking the law.”
Rogers says this conundrum has led to a very serious breach in national security.
“We don’t know who these people are,” he said. “We don’t know where they’ve come from. I have deep concerns that this has led to an increase in gang members in the country.”
But the U.S.-Mexico border is more than 1,000 miles away from us here in North Jersey. So how is an open border a threat to the citizenry of Essex, Bergen and Hudson counties?
It’s simple, Rogers says, and it’s something major media outlets are ignoring — or in some cases, under-discussing.
“They’re here in New Jersey and they are not always legally here,” Rogers said of gang members.
Rogers, a former police lieutenant who spent time with the U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force, says a lot of this has happened since he retired from the Nutley PD several years ago. He says MS-13 gang members are showing up all over the state, including in Morristown, a place not exactly known as a hotbed for gang-related activity.
“Who are these people — and how did they get here?” Rogers said. “Well, they’re here illegally and they’re an absolute threat to our national security.”
Rogers says he’s also worried — as is the president — that operatives in ISIS and al-Qaeda are using unmanned portions of the U.S.-Mexico border to enter the country. A wall, if built, would put a stop to potential terrorists easing into the county to plot a potential reprise of the attacks we witnessed on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I am concerned, sure, that terrorists are utilizing the open borders in an attempt to pull off not-yet-seen attacks,” Rogers said. “al-Qaeda and ISIS are both very patient military organizations. They somehow get here — and it’s easiest at the southern border.”
Rogers also believes the open borders are the reason why America is in the midst of an opioid crisis of epic proportions — and until the borders are secured, the drug epidemic will never be properly addressed — and it may never come to an end.
“Unless we stop the flow of illegal drugs into this country — and the large number of cartels that are bringing the drugs into America by crossing in at unmanned locations — we’ve failed,” he said.
He says it’s “unfathomable” the amount of illicit drugs being smuggled into America by these largely Mexican cartels.
Among issues not related to immigration, Rogers says the president hopes to focus on foreign policy more in 2019 — and to make America a country that spends more time, energy and money on its own people instead of on other nations in disarray.
“When the president was elected, he promised America would no longer use its military to build nations,” he said. “The military will be used to win wars.”
Rogers pointed to Afghanistan and Syria as two countries where too many military resources have been expended. But isn’t ISIS heavily based in Syria? Isn’t pulling the military out of Syria going to be a problem, therefore?
“No,” Rogers said adamantly. “Look, we only have about 2,000 troops in Syria. The people of this country are tired of wars. Having 2,000 troops in Syria isn’t going make a big difference.”
On the home front, Rogers says it’s all about the economy.
“The economy is very strong right now,” he said. “Are you better off now than you were just a few years ago? In this state, taxing and spending is out of control. Regulations continue to be increased. Our state is not a friendly place to businesses. And this is all despite all the good things happening nationally.”
And with unemployment at its lowest level in decades — “especially for the minority population,” Rogers said — things can only get better in the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, Rogers, who has just a little over two years left on his second term as Nutley commissioner, says this is it for him. He will abide by his pledge not to seek a third term (he could — there are no term limits in Nutley.) He also won’t accept, if offered, any position at the White House or, for that matter, anywhere along the D.C. Beltway.
Instead, he will continue to push for the president — and continue to make TV appearances.
He said: “I couldn’t go on TV or speak to you like I am now if I had an inside job, could I?”