Cape May County sues attorney general over immigration policy

A battle over state immigration policy is heading to federal court.

Cape May County and Sheriff Robert Nolan have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Attorney General Gurbir Grewal over his decision to terminate agreements between county jails and federal immigration authorities.

The attorney general last month announced the end of so-called 287(g) agreements in the state, which allowed county jails to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and detain immigrant prisoners until they could be arrested by federal agents.

Both Monmouth and Cape May counties recently renewed their contracts with ICE, in defiance of Grewal’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which requires counties to notify his office first before signing any such agreements.

“We tried to work with the attorney general’s office to show the state why this program is so important,” said Nolan. “We have been left with no other option than to take this matter to court.”

Monmouth County is planning to take legal action as well but has not yet filed suit.

Ocean County, which does not have a 287(g) agreement, filed its own lawsuit last month against Grewal’s Immigrant Trust Directive, claiming the attorney general does not have the power to prohibit law enforcement from sharing inmate information with ICE.

Officials in all three counties have criticized Grewal’s immigration policies as providing “sanctuary” for unauthorized immigrants who commit crimes, a claim the attorney general has repeatedly denied.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Grewal said in September. “If you break the law, you go to jail, regardless of your immigration status.”

The AG’s office did not comment on the specifics of the Cape May lawsuit, but a spokesperson on Wednesday defended Grewal’s authority to establish statewide policies “to draw a bright, clear line between federal immigration authorities, who enforce federal civil immigration law, and state and local law enforcement officers, who don’t.”