New Jersey updating state policy on ICE cooperation

(Alan Tu/WHYY)

(Alan Tu/WHYY)

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said he plans to announce a new directive on state and local law enforcement’s relationship with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as soon as next month.

Grewal said Monday that the state’s 2007 directive — which says local police must ask about a defendant’s immigration status after an arrest on “serious criminal charges,” and notify ICE if the person may be in the country illegally — does not reflect the immigration realities of today.

“If federal immigration authorities have a criminal warrant and they need our assistance in executing criminal warrants, we’ll cooperate,” Grewal said. “But we’re not here as state law enforcement officers to enforce civil immigration laws.”

State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan said ICE agents have not asked troopers to do that. “Not at the state level,” he said. “We’ve not been asked to participate in any of the civil actions that the general alluded to.”

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and civil rights groups are providing input on the new guidance that should be announced within the next month, according to Grewal.

“We work hard to encourage minority communities to come out of the shadows to report crimes,” said Grewal. “And when they feel that they can’t come and report a crime because we may somehow enforce federal civil immigration laws, that makes it harder for the troopers in the state and 30,000 plus law enforcement officers to do their jobs.”

Grewal’s comments come nine months into the first term of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who campaigned on making New Jersey a “sanctuary state,” although he did not specify exactly what that would mean.

Cities and towns across the U.S., including Newark and Philadelphia, have adopted “sanctuary” policies that limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration agents, arguing that these policies make communities safer by encouraging undocumented, but otherwise law-abiding residents to report crimes. (Others have sought to partner with the agency.)

However, the Trump administration has attempted to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, claiming that they harbor criminals.

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