Gurbir Grewal tells county sheriffs to release illegal alien prisoners

On November 29, Gurbir Grewal, the New Jersey Attorney General, issued a statewide directive limiting the types of assistance that law enforcement officers can provide to federal immigration authorities, including and especially including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Attorney General Directive 2018-6, entitled Immigrant Trust Directive, is described in an official summary as having been designed to strengthen trust between New Jersey’s law enforcement officers and immigrant communities, helping to ensure that victims and witnesses should feel safe in reporting crimes.

The Attorney General's Office did not mention that this directive threatens public safety by sabotaging efforts to deport criminals who are in the United States illegally and by preventing law enforcement agencies from arresting individuals who avoided standard processing, which includes background checks, when they entered the country.

Important Features of New Jersey's Immigrant Trust Directive

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's directive will place the following limitations on law enforcement officers in New Jersey:

  • Police officers cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on immigration status. They are prohibited from inquiring about the immigration status of any individual, unless it's relevant to an ongoing investigation of a serious offense.
  • Police officers cannot participate in ICE civil immigration enforcement operations, and are prohibited from providing ICE with access to state or local resources.
  • Correctional officers cannot allow ICE to interview individuals detained on criminal charges, unless the detainee is advised of his rights and signs a consent form.
  • Correctional officers cannot hold an individual arrested for a minor criminal offense, past the time he would otherwise have been released, to comply with an ICE detainer request.

The directive was motivated by a federal crackdown on illegal immigration under President Donald Trump. ICE's office in Newark, New Jersey, reported a 40 percent year-over-year increase in arrests during fiscal year 2017. A November study published by a “progressive” think tank called New Jersey Policy Perspective found that ICE detainers, requesting local law enforcement agencies to hold individuals in detention for up to an additional 48 hours, increased by nearly 88 percent between 2016 and 2017.

County Sheriffs in New Jersey are accused of violating the Attorney General's directive

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's directive was not issued as a mere formality — rather, it is being energetically enforced.

ICE arranges Section 287(g) agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, enabling them to place federal immigration detainers on illegal alien prisoners, before they are released from jail. Directive 2018-6 mandates that no state, county, or local law enforcement authority in New Jersey shall enter into, modify, renew, or extend any Section 287(g) agreement unless:

  1. The Attorney General grants written approval; or
  2. The agreement is necessary to address threats to the public safety or welfare of New Jersey residents arising out of a declaration of a state or national emergency.

ICE currently has two Section 287(g) agreements in New Jersey: With the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office, and with the Cape May County Sheriffs Office.

Monmouth County, NJ
Monmouth County, NJ
Cape May County, NJ
Cape May County, NJ

On July 8, Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice of the Office of the Attorney General sent letters to Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden and to Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan, claiming they had violated the Immigrant Trust Directive by renewing existing 287(g) agreements with ICE without written approval from the Attorney General.

The county sheriffs were informed that they had until August 9 to prove their participation in the 287(g) program “serves a valid law enforcement purpose.” If not, the letter continued, the counties would be barred from further cooperation with ICE. Veronica Allende's deadline was later extended until August 16.

The County Sheriffs are determined to continue the agreements

Only a couple of days later, both sheriffs were reported to have defended their contracts with ICE.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden contended that Monmouth had renewed its 287(g) agreement on March 8, a week before the attorney general’s directive took effect, and before the state government belatedly issued guidelines on April 30. On cooperation with ICE, Sheriff Shaun Golden added “It’s something I believe in. I don’t think we should be releasing a criminal … to go out and do more harm to our residents here in Monmouth County.”

Cape May Sheriff Robert Nolan noted “I have sworn an oath to protect the people of this county. The 287(g) helps keep criminals from returning to our streets, which keeps Cape May County safer.” In support of the 287(g) agreement, county officials argue that it only applies to sheriff’s officers in the Cape May County jail, and that due to bail reform, only persons charged with a serious offense would come into contact with those officers, while being processed at the county jail.