U.S. Attorney General William Barr has announced the Justice Department is suing New Jersey, along with Gov. Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, for prohibiting state officials from sharing information with the U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement agency.
Barr’s announcement came Monday, hours after President Donald Trump had condemned “sanctuary city” policies as a “tremendous problem” to a group of governors at the White House.
A Justice Department statement said the lawsuit challenges “New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2018-6,” which forbids sharing information with ICE officials in most cases. It said that “on multiple occasions last year, New Jersey officials failed to provide information regarding the release dates of aliens who had been charged with or convicted of crimes.” It added that “New Jersey’s decision to obstruct federal immigration enforcement by refusing to provide such information is unlawful under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
‘Election year stunt’
“Once again, the Trump Administration is sacrificing public safety for political expedience,” responded Grewal. “It’s no surprise that the President, facing re-election, has suddenly decided to challenge a policy we first announced in 2018. What’s disappointing is that my former colleagues at the Justice Department have agreed to go along with this election year stunt.”
“Nothing about today’s lawsuit changes our work on the ground,” Grewal concluded in a brief statement issued by his office. “While the President grandstands, we’re focused on protecting the nine million residents of New Jersey.”
Grewal unveiled the directive in late November 2018. At the time, he said it did not make the state a “sanctuary” for criminals and does not prevent police, prosecutors and jail officials from assisting ICE agents with proper requests. It does directs officials not to enter into so-called 287(g) partnerships that essentially deputize local law enforcement as immigration agents or detain immigrants for ICE without a warrant signed by a judge. Police no longer ask an immigrant’s legal status in most instances.
His policy came two weeks after immigrant advocates released a report that found detainers issued by ICE increased by almost 88% between 2016 and 2017 in New Jersey and that officials had been complying with about two-thirds of all federal requests to hold individuals for 48 hours or more.
The state’s chief law enforcement officer said that individuals are less likely to report a crime if they fear police will report them to immigration authorities, so the directive helps improve safety.
During his campaign for governor, Murphy had pledged to make New Jersey a sanctuary state, although he has stopped using that term. Advocates prefer the term “fair and welcoming,” since state officials cannot guarantee sanctuary to any immigrants because they cannot stop immigration enforcement agents from operating within the state.
Grewal’s directive has received pushback recently from several Republican-led counties. Last September, Ocean County filed a lawsuit against Grewal, contending he does not have the power to stop law enforcement officials from sharing inmate information with ICE. A month later, Cape May County and its sheriff sued Grewal in U.S. District Court over his order ending 287(g) agreements in the state. Cape May and Monmouth counties both renewed their contracts with ICE last year despite Grewal’s order.
Barr also announced a lawsuit against King County in Washington State for effectively prohibiting ICE contractors from using King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field, to transport people within the United States or remove them from the country.