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New Jersey sheriff sues state DA over ICE cooperation restrictions

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Source: Sheriff Bob Nolan Facebook / ICE

Brent Johnson
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

Cape May County’s sheriff and government are suing the state of New Jersey and the attorney general after Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration put restrictions on how and when local law officials can work with federal immigration officials.

Last year, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal — New Jersey’s top law enforcement official — unveiled the Immigrant Trust Directive, which limited when local police can ask someone’s immigration status and turn over unauthorized immigrants to to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE.

Grewal took the directive a step further last month. He announced he was blocking any local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey from having 287(g) agreements with ICE. Under those deals, ICE trains local law officials about federal immigration laws and gives them some power to enforce the laws.

The sheriff’s offices in Cape May and Monmouth counties were the only ones in New Jersey to have such agreements with ICE.

But the lawsuit alleges that Grewal’s decisions are unconstitutional and puts Cape May County residents at risk.

“We tried to work with the Attorney General’s Office to show the state why this program is so important,” Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan said in a statement Wednesday. “We have been left with no other option than to take this matter to court. I thank so many of the residents of Cape May County who have voiced their support to me.”

The county entered into its agreement with ICE in April 2017. County officials say they have reported and held undocumented immigrants accused of serious crimes, according to the lawsuit. That has been about four or five people a year, the suit said.

Ocean County filed a separate lawsuit last month against the state Attorney General’s Office over its the Immigrant Trust Directive.

Trump, a Republican, has made enforcing immigration laws — and criticizing undocumented immigrants — a focus in his nearly three years as president, drawing blowback from Democrats and other critics.

Grewal — who was appointed by Murphy, a Democrat, and has filed numerous lawsuits against Trump’s administration — said these agreements force immigrants into the shadows and make communities less safe.

“Our job here is to enforce our state’s criminal laws,” Grewal said during a news conference last month. “Their job is to enforce federal immigration laws. They should do their jobs. We’ll do our jobs.”



Leland Moore, a spokesman with the state Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment on the specifics of Cape May County’s lawsuit.

But Moore stressed that the federal Criminal Justice Act of 1970 allows the state attorney general “broad authority to establish statewide law enforcement policies, including policies that promote police-community trust and encourage victims and witnesses to cooperate with law enforcement.”

“The purpose of the Immigrant Trust Directive was clear: to draw a bright, clear line between federal immigration authorities, who enforce federal civil immigration law, and state and local law enforcement officers, who don’t,” Moore added. “This distinction is vital, because it provides assurance to victims and witnesses that they can report crimes to New Jersey’s law enforcement officers without fear of deportation.”

Moore also said the Immigrant Trust Directive does not provide “sanctuary” to anyone who commit crimes in New Jersey or prohibit police from notifying ICE about “violent or serious offenders.”

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©2019 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

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