7 Ways NY and NJ Are Pushing Back Against Trump’s Immigration Policies

Local governments, courts, and politicians are questioning and at times refusing to cooperate with some of the presidents new immigration rules

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We’ve passed President Donald Trump’s 100th day in the White House. So far, one of the defining features of his time in office has been the pushback from local governments, courts, and politicians to his changes in federal policy —particularly on immigration. That’s been especially pronounced in New York and New Jersey. Here are five examples: 

1) In Middlesex County, NJ, last month, an immigrant was sentenced to two years of probation for failure to properly care for a minor. This did not rise to a criminal offense necessitating a prison term, but moments after the sentence was handed down federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement appeared in the courtroom and arrested him on an immigration violation. Lawyers said it was unprecedented for such an arrest to happen inside a courtroom, so the public defender’s office complained to New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who then wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, asking ICE to knock it off. If immigrants fear going to court because of a possible arrest, Rabner and other court officials are concerned that crime victims, witnesses, and those with warrants may simply not show up at all, weakening law enforcement and threatening public safety. So far, though, ICE says it will continue operations inside courthouses — but only as a last resort if it can’t otherwise track down “criminal aliens.”

2) There’s a broad effort to pass legislation at the county, town, and even school board level to protect immigrants from the federal government by limiting cooperation with ICE. Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to take away aid from these so-called sanctuaries. That showdown will likely end in court. 

3) Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced a new policy this week in which prosecutors will work with defense attorneys to avoid potential immigration ramifications for defendants. That means prosecutors will consider charging immigrants with one offense rather than another if it could mean a less likely chance of deportation — and as long as it doesn’t compromise public safety.

4) The New York City Council held hearings this week on a package of nine bills to protect immigrants. One bill restricts city agencies from sharing personal information without a subpoena. An immigrant accessing city services, for example, wouldn’t be traced by deportation agents.

5) Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that he’s allotting $16 million for legal services for immigrants — that’s on top of $10 million that Gov. Andrew Cuomo already set aside. Cuomo is also putting $2 million into refugee resettlement, which is unprecedented in the country, in a direct response to Trump’s restrictions on refugees.

6) Schools are helping undocumented parents know their rights by hosting workshops to answer questions like: Do we answer the door when ICE comes knocking? And despite the fact that Gov. Chris Christie is a major Trump backer, his Education Department in New Jersey held webinars last month to remind educators that undocumented students have the legal right to get an equal education regardless of immigration status.

7) Politicians are protesting. Last month Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) accompanied an undocumented immigrant to a meeting with ICE in Newark. These used to be routine annual check-ins for immigrants without criminal records, but now, some of those who show up are sometimes finding themselves detained and deported. The man whom Menendez accompanied, Catalino Guerrero of Union City, ultimately won a one-year stay on his deportation.

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