Immigration advocates defend ‘the senior senator for Latinos’

Lauren Schneiderman

Immigration reform advocates are rushing to the defense of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) following his indictment Wednesday on federal corruption charges.

“My fervent hope is that Senator Menendez emerges from the current troubles stronger than ever,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration rights organization America’s Voice.

“For he is not only the senior Senator for New Jersey; he’s also the senior senator for Latinos,” he continued.

{mosads}Sharry said he had worked with Menendez on immigration reform for more than a decade. Calling him a “relentless and effective” lawmaker, he noted their years of working together on immigration issues as proof of Menendez’s character.

“I know him well and love him dearly,” Sharry said of his relationship with Menendez. “He has courageously stood up for those marginalized by the political system and dehumanized by a nasty streak of nativism in American society.”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Il.), co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, echoed those sentiments on Wednesday.

“Bob Menendez has never given me any reason to question his integrity, his dedication to honest public service or his commitment to the American people,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

“My hope is that these legal matters are resolved quickly so he can go back to concentrating 100 percent on his service to the people of New Jersey and the United States,” he continued.

The Justice Department charged Menendez on Wednesday with 14 counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud.

The DOJ’s indictment stems from Menendez’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor and wealthy political donor. The agency also indicted Melgen for similar crimes.

At issue is whether or not Menendez used his political clout to benefit Melgen’s business interests. The New Jersey lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing, calling him a close family friend.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) pounced on Wednesday’s news as proof of “ethical lapses” by Menendez in particular and Senate Democrats in general.

“His actions reinforce all that the American people believe is wrong with Washington Democrats and closes the book on a Senate Democratic majority that put their personal interests ahead of the American people,” said NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek of the accusations against Menendez.

Menendez vowed he was “not going anywhere” earlier this month after reports leaked of the possible charges coming his way. 

The embattled senator will address the public 7 p.m. Wednesday from Newark, according to a release from his office. 

Tags Bob Menendez Robert Menendez

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