Department of Justice sues New Jersey for interfering with immigration law enforcement

Blake Nelson of NJ Advance Media reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has joined a lawsuit against New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal, over his prohibition against cooperation with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).

The Immigrant Trust Directive, enacted on November 29, 2018, prohibits law enforcement officers in New Jersey from:

  • Stopping, questioning, arresting, searching, or detaining any individual based solely on immigration status.
  • Asking about the immigration status of any individual, unless it's necessary and relevant to an ongoing investigation of a serious offense.
  • Participating in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by ICE.
  • Providing ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including databases.
  • Allowing ICE to interview an individual arrested on a criminal charge unless that person is advised of his right to an attorney.

Similar restrictions were placed on the Department of Corrections officers.

The Immigrant Trust Directive prohibited law enforcement agencies in New Jersey from entering or renewing Section 287(g) agreements with ICE. Under these agreements, state and local agencies are ‘deputized’ to enforce federal civil immigration laws. At the time the initiative was enacted, there were less than five agencies in New Jersey with active 287(g) agreements.

In September, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders filed a lawsuit against Gurbir S. Grewal, in his official capacity as Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, saying he does not posses legal authority to dictate which law enforcement agencies Ocean County is allowed to communicate and work with. This is how the complaint opened:

Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey's Directive No. 2018-6 (the “Directive”) exceeds the lawful scope of his constitutional, statutory, and common law powers by attempting to regulate the flow of immigration-related inmate information, which is preempted by the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate and enforce immigration laws.

In October, the sheriff and government in Cape May County filed suit against the New Jersey state government and attorney general, arguing that the Immigrant Trust Directive is unconstitutional and puts Cape May County residents at risk.

On Friday, Trump administration officials agreed that part of the restrictions are unconstitutional, according to court documents.

Update: The Department of Justice sues New Jersey

On February 10, the U.S. Department of Justice brought civil action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, naming the State of New Jersey, Governor Philip Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as the plaintiffs. The complaint seeks a declaration invalidating and an order permanently enjoining New Jersey Directive 2018-6, a.k.a. the Immigrant Trust Directive.

The introduction section states The Directive is preempted by federal law and impermissibly discriminates against the United States, thus violating the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

The introduction continues: The United States has undoubted, preeminent authority to regulate immigration. This authority is inherent in the United States' status as a sovereign nation and is reflected in the Constitution and numerous acts of Congress.

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