Bogota, NJ Mayor Steve Lonegan busted… Lonegan is a staunch proponent of curbing illegal imigration and has been recognized on both the local and national level for his stance. When he got busted hiring two illegals, the only ones he got caught on, he lied. To make matters worse, his elitism came out when he told the world he makes up his own rules and if someone doesn’t like it too bad.
Well Mr. Lonegan, you hired illegal aliens, you lied about it when questioned, then when the two illegals where inteviewed and refuted your claims, you as an elected official and Public Servant, tell the people that the law does not apply to you and you will make up your own rules. Sorry Mr. Lonegan, but hiring illegals is ILLEGAL and had some middle class nobody done this, they would have been charged with a crime.
The only profiling taking place is your profiling of cheap labor. You intentional went to a location where illegals wait for work, you hired them and promised them money and food, so that you would not have to pay the minimum wage. Then on top of that, you state that if they did the work and you found out later that they were illegal, you would not have paid them, that is called SLAVE LABOR Mr. Lonegan. The only criminal here is you and you attempt to shift the blame onto the police is absurd.
The Bogota Police and INS should file charges against you Mr. Lonegan, why haven’t they, because you are the Mayor, what a load of crap. Please charge this man as you would charge anyone else.
Two undocumented workers hired by Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan last week disputed his account of events Monday, saying he sought them out for work and never asked whether they were legal residents.
Lonegan, widely known as a staunch proponent of stricter policies on illegal immigration, acknowledged he recruited them the morning of Oct. 8 but insisted he asked them whether they had proper papers and received an affirmative answer before hiring them.
On Friday, Lonegan had said that the workers had come looking for work at the Bogota building where his office is located.
The Guatemalan men, 20-year-old Elder Chuta and 22-year-old Victor Evaristo, said Monday that two men — a driver and a passenger they later identified as Lonegan from a photograph — picked them up along the Route 46 ramp at Broad Avenue in Palisades Park, a popular spot for day laborers in search of jobs.
The two men were later questioned by police at a home Lonegan owns in Bogota after a resident called police and said there were two Hispanic men walking through the vacant residence, which is for sale.
Lonegan hired the men to assemble lawn signs for his taxpayer advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity. The driver was an employee of the group who often drives Lonegan, who is legally blind.
When asked why his account on Friday differed, Lonegan first said he had been taken aback when told by a reporter that the police had been to the home. He went on to say that he considered the details irrelevant.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “To me, it’s irrelevant, whether they were standing inside or outside. I will hire anybody I want, and if they don’t prove to be proper, they don’t get paid.”
Chuta said the car pulled over on the morning of Oct. 8, and the man on the passenger side said, “I need two guys.” He said he and Evaristo were driven to the home, shown the signs and offered $80 each for eight hours of work. They were offered soda and promised lunch later in the day, he said.
Both workers said they were never asked to show documentation or questioned about their legal status by Lonegan. Although they said their English was poor, they said they understand enough to know whether such questions were asked.
Lonegan said he “absolutely” asked about their status and planned to ask them to fill out paperwork later in the day. When he returned to the house later that day, he said, they were gone, and he did not realize that police had taken them to the station.
Evaristo was cited for giving a false identity, a disorderly persons violation, when a fake Mexican identification card he carried in his wallet — a document frequently given to Central Americans by smugglers to help them cross through Mexico — did not match the name he gave to officers. He has a Municipal Court date today at 2 p.m.
Evaristo said they struggled to communicate with the officers, who did not speak Spanish.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been questioned by police,” Evaristo said. “I was so nervous. I told them my full name, my birthday. I told the cops the truth.”
On Monday, Lonegan repeated his contention that the police officers would not have reacted in the same way if the workers had not been Hispanic. He called for an investigation into the department’s handling of the matter on Saturday.
“I have a big problem with this, and I’m not letting it go,” he said. “Would it be OK if I went up to Bogota High School and got a couple of white kids?”
He also questioned why police did not alert him to the incident and accused the department of attempting to pay him back for acrimonious labor negotiations earlier this year.
“These two guys did not deserve to be put through this,” he said. “These guys got hurt by malicious cops. If the police had called me, I would have come right down and straightened it all out.”
He said he would like to pay the two men — out of his own pocket — to compensate them for the work they did and to make up for their treatment.
Chief Frank Gurnari, who met with Lonegan on Monday to discuss the incident, said the allegations of racial profiling were “absurd.”
“The officers didn’t initiate that investigation,” he said. “We responded to a call for service. They handled that as they would have any similar call.”
He also said that the officers had contacted the realty company and may not have known that Lonegan owned the house. Lonegan has said police are well aware that he owns the property and should have contacted him last week.
Jerome Fowler, a patrolman and the president of the police union, said the labor talks were not relevant to the incident.
“We’re two months into arbitration,” he said. “Are we not supposed to do our job when a citizen makes a complaint that there are suspicious persons at a vacant residence in Bogota? I don’t see what one has to do with the other.”
At a news conference Monday evening, Democratic Councilman Patrick McHale and Councilwoman Tara Sharp called on the Republican mayor to resign.
“We are appalled at the statements made by Mayor Lonegan about our Police Department,” said McHale, who is running for mayor. “It is ridiculous to imply that our officers were engaged in any racial discrimination.” They said that Lonegan’s policies had created racial tension in the town.
Lonegan, who is not running for reelection, said the statement was simply a “cheap” campaign ploy.
“The call on me to resign is part of a silly campaign effort,” he said. He said the Democrats should be willing to join him in an investigation of the police if they are truly convinced there was no improper behavior.
Lonegan said the controversy, which he labeled a “tempest in a teapot,” shows how challenging it is for employers to be certain their workers are legal.
“Should I suspect them?” he said. “I guess in today’s environment, you need to suspect that every Hispanic is illegal. That’s the message I’m getting here.
“This is the fallout from a failed federal immigration policy,” he said.
Evaristo said he wanted to go to court to explain that he had been trying to tell the truth, adding that the incident had left him afraid of the potential legal consequences and the possible impact on his family.
Lonegan, long outspoken on illegal immigration, made headlines last year when he tried to get McDonald’s to remove a Spanish-language billboard in the borough, and attempted to have English designated the town’s official language.
Evaristo and Chuta said they did not know who Lonegan was, and had never heard of him or his stance on immigration.
“If we had known any of this, knowing the way the immigration debate is here, we never would have gotten in that car,” Evaristro said.