On Thursday, the state of New Jersey made it more difficult to break up drug networks involving illegal immigrants when Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal issued a directive to all state, county, and local law enforcement agencies limiting the aid that they can give to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The new directive was ostensibly written to separate the responsibilities carried by state law officers from those of federal immigration authorities.
According to the Cape May County Herald, Attorney General Directive 2018-6 states that in most cases, New Jersey’s law enforcement officers:
Cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status; cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation; cannot participate in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by ICE; cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property, unless those resources are readily available to the public, and cannot allow ICE to interview an individual arrested on a criminal charge unless that person is advised of his or her right to a lawyer.
Grewal argued in his directive:
Put simply, New Jersey’s law enforcement officers protect the public by investigating state criminal offenses and enforcing state criminal laws. They are not responsible for enforcing civil immigration violations except in narrowly defined circumstances. Such responsibilities instead fall to the federal government and those operating under its authority.
Although state, county, and local law enforcement officers should assist federal immigration authorities when required to do so by law, they should also be mindful that providing assistance above and beyond those requirements threatens to blur the distinctions.
He added, “To be clear, nothing in this new Directive limits New Jersey law enforcement agencies or officers from enforcing state law – and nothing in this Directive should be read to imply that New Jersey provides ‘sanctuary’ to those who commit crimes in this state.”
Grewal stated that information gleaned from illegal immigrants about crimes would be enhanced by his directive, stating:
We know from experience that individuals are far less likely to report a crime to the local police if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to federal immigration authorities. That fear makes it more difficult for officers to solve crimes and bring suspects to justice. These new rules are designed to draw a clear distinction between local police and federal civil immigration authorities, ensuring that victims and witnesses feel safe reporting crimes to New Jersey’s law enforcement officers. No law-abiding resident of this great state should live in fear that a routine traffic stop by local police will result in his or her deportation from this country.
Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police approved of the directive, saying, “Attorney General Grewal has provided New Jersey law enforcement with a clear, comprehensive directive that will greatly assist investigators with building trust among all of our communities. Trust between law enforcement and witnesses and victims of crimes is essential to not only solving cases, but also locating missing people, and it is the foundation of building a long lasting relationship with everyone we serve.”
Daniel Horowitz of Conservative Review had a different perspective:
The directive will become operational on March 15, 2019.