HomeAsian AmericansNew Jersey, ICE Appear Headed to Showdown over Immigrants' Arrests

New Jersey, ICE Appear Headed to Showdown over Immigrants’ Arrests

Gurbir S  Grewa
New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir S Grewa

Views from the Edge

New Jersey and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement appear to be heading for a showdown as ICE officials threaten to increase deportations of immigrant residents of the state. In an apparent response to State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s new Immigrant Trust Directive, ICE officials warn there that they have no choice but to enforce immigration laws and will likely mean an increase in arrest of immigrants living in the state illegally.

Grewal, the son of Indian immigrants, became the country’s first Sikh American attorney general when he was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy in January 2018.  He announced the new new rules last month surrounded by the state’s top law enforcement officials. The Immigrant Trust Directive — which include limiting when police can turn over jailed immigrants to ICE agents — was strongly criticized by federal immigration officials who said New Jersey was creating a “state-sanctioned haven” for unauthorized immigrants.

“As a result of limited cooperation with local and state authorities, ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” ICE officials said in a statement.

“We don’t respond to threats. We’re focused on protecting New Jersey’s residents from harm,” said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

Immigrant rights groups were quick to respond at ICE’s threats.

“The reality is ICE is already using unconstitutional tactics and violating people’s civil rights. Their intimidation of immigrant communities and families is the exact reason New Jersey state and local leadership choose again and again not to engage in civil immigration enforcement,” said Johanna Calle, director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, an immigrant advocacy group.

The Immigrant Trust Directive directs that law enforcement officials:

  • 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;
  • 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.

Calle said she hopes the attorney general’s directive will lead to a better relationship between immigrant groups and the local police.

“Nationwide, cities and localities that have limited collaboration with this agency have lower rates of crimes and better relationship between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. There is no truth to ICE’s claims which uses racist rhetoric to legitimize its tactics,” Calle said.

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