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Will County Sue Over AG’s Directive Ending ICE Pact?

By Vince Conti

CREST HAVEN – Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton promised legal action. He stated in a release that the county would “take this matter all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said he would continue to seek “legal remedies” to what he termed a “sanctuary directive.” 
Ocean County filed its suit in federal court Dec. 18.
What all three counties were reacting to is the state’s constraints on local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement actions.
New Jersey Attorney General (AG) Gurbir Grewal Sept. 27 reissued his Immigrant Trust Directive of November 2018. The directive limits the participation of local law enforcement officers in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The updated directive ends the 287(g) agreements entered into by the Monmouth and Cape May County Sheriff’s Offices.
The directive states that, “No state, county, or local law enforcement authority shall enter into, modify, renew, or extend any agreement to exercise federal immigration authority pursuant to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g), and they shall not exercise any law enforcement authority pursuant to a preexisting Section 287(g) agreement.”
Grewal stated the 287(g) agreements “undermine public trust without enhancing public safety.” He stated that the focus of local law enforcement officers is the state’s criminal laws and the protection of its citizens. The enforcement of civil immigration law, he continued, is the responsibility of federal agents. 
Grewal argued that the responsibilities of local law enforcement depend on all members of the public, including the state’s immigrant population, feeling free to aid law enforcement without fear. He further argued that the directive does not establish any “sanctuary” for criminals in New Jersey, stating that enforcement of criminal laws remains a priority and that ICE will be notified about individuals in custody “who have been charged with or convicted of a range of violent or serious offenses.” 
Officials in Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties argue that impeding active cooperation with ICE means that criminals will be released, endangering the safety of local communities. They argue that the directive makes it easier for violent criminals to be released back into the community, before they can be transferred to ICE custody. 
The week before the AG reissued his directive, Ocean County filed suit in federal court asking for a declaratory judgment that the AG’s Directive No. 2018-6 exceeds the lawful scope of his constitutional, statutory, and common law powers. 
The suit cites federal laws, which it claims preempt the AG’s actions. It also argues that the directive violates the Home Rule Doctrine under the state constitution. 
Whether or not the same legal strategy will be followed by Cape May and Monmouth counties is not clear. 
The state has not filed its response to the Ocean County complaint.
To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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