TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued a directive to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey ending the use of so-called “287(g) agreements,” which allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deputize local law enforcement officers to perform federal civil immigration duties.
The order, which revises the “Immigrant Trust Directive” that Attorney General Grewal issued in November 2018, will have the practical effect of terminating the two 287(g) agreements still in effect in New Jersey, namely, those involving the Sheriff’s Offices in Monmouth and Cape May Counties.
In issuing the revised Directive, Attorney General Grewal made clear that 287(g) agreements “undermine public trust without enhancing public safety,” and that any asserted benefits of the agreements “are already being achieved by the Immigrant Trust Directive.”
“The goal of the Immigrant Trust Directive is clear—to make it easier for New Jersey’s law enforcement officers to solve crimes and ensure the safety of all 9 million people in our state by building trust with our large and diverse immigrant communities,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Because of the bright line between New Jersey law enforcement officers and federal civil immigration agents, immigrants can come forward as victims and witnesses of crimes without fear of reprisal. Today, we’re shutting down agreements that ‘deputize’ state and local law enforcement to work as ICE agents, because they undermine that distinction, put our hard-earned trust at risk, and compromise public safety.”
“Since the whole idea of the Immigrant Trust Directive is to promote public safety,” Attorney General Grewal continued, “we’re also clearing up misconceptions about how it works. To be clear, nothing in the Directive provides ‘sanctuary’ to dangerous criminals. If you break the law, you go to jail, regardless of your immigration status. And the Directive explicitly allows county jails to identify the most violent and serious offenders—such as those who commit murder, rape, and domestic abuse—and notify federal authorities so they can be referred to federal agents. There is no reason that, under the Directive, these dangerous offenders ever have to be released back into the community.”
Attorney General Directive 2018-6, known as the Immigrant Trust Directive, limited the types of voluntary assistance that state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey may provide to federal civil immigration authorities, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Directive drew a clear line between the responsibility of New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers to enforce state criminal laws and the responsibility of federal immigration authorities to enforce federal civil immigration law. The rules strengthen trust between New Jersey law enforcement officers and the state’s immigrant communities, to help ensure that the members of these communities are comfortable reporting crimes to police and coming forward as witnesses.
In a letter to all law enforcement chief executives explaining his decision to now end the use of 287(g) agreements, Attorney General Grewal noted that these agreements “allow ICE to deputize county and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law pursuant.” As a result, they “blur the distinction between federal civil immigration enforcement and local law enforcement,” which “creates confusion regarding the distinct roles of local law enforcement and federal agents” and “makes it less likely that immigrant victims and witnesses will cooperate with local police in criminal investigations.”
In that same letter, Attorney General Grewal highlighted that 287(g) agreements are also not necessary to prevent dangerous individuals from being released into the community. As he explains, the “Directive explicitly allows any state, county, or local law enforcement agency to refer any individual to ICE who has been charged with a ‘violent or serious offense,’ a term that includes murder, rape, arson, and domestic violence crimes.” The revised Directive further updates the list of offenses where notice to ICE is permitted, including, among other specific listed offenses, additional gun crimes and domestic violence offenses.
“The reality is,” the letter continues, “most offenders who have been turned over to ICE in New Jersey pursuant to a 287(g) agreement—and, indeed, all of the most serious offenders—could have been referred to ICE under the plain terms of the Directive.” That is why “the vast majority of New Jersey’s 21 counties have already proven able to protect public safety without entering into 287(g) agreements of their own.”
“Ultimately,” it concludes, “the Immigrant Trust Directive ensures that anyone who violates New Jersey’s criminal laws can and will be held accountable for their crimes, no matter their immigration status. No additional agreements between state and local law enforcement and federal civil immigration authorities are necessary in order to achieve that goal.”
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