Attorney general announces new rules governing law enforcement interactions with ICE

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s new directive dramatically limits how much law enforcement can voluntarily assist federal immigration authorities like ICE — and intentionally counters the Trump administration’s severe crackdown on unauthorized immigrants.

“With today’s directive, we are sending a message to those in Washington that we will not allow you to drive a wedge between our law enforcement officers and our immigrant communities,” he said. “We’re showing that we’re here to serve all members of our community.”

Grewal says stepped-up federal arrests and detentions terrify the immigrant community, and people fear to report crimes or testify in court. His new Immigrant Trust Directive states local law enforcement can’t stop, question, arrest, search or detain anyone based solely on suspected immigrant status; can’t ask that status unless it’s relevant to an ongoing investigation; can’t participate in ICE immigration raids; and let ICE interview people under arrest unless they’ve been advised of their rights to a lawyer.

“We cannot allow the line between state criminal law and federal civil immigration law to become blurred. If we do, we risk losing the trust we have worked so hard to build with our immigrant communities and we jeopardize public safety,” said Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice at the Attorney General’s office.

Noting ICE requests to detain prisoners spiked almost 88 percent in the first year of Trump’s presidency, Grewal’s directive prohibits police from continuing to hold people scheduled to be released from custody, simply because ICE asks them to. It also prohibits law enforcement agencies from entering or renewing so-called Section 287(g) agreements that deputize local cops to enforce federal civil immigration laws. Monmouth, Salem and Cape May Counties are currently in 287(g) contracts. Monmouth’s prosecutor had no comment, and the other two were unavailable.

“I can’t overstate how extraordinary this step is. Our state is about to become one of the most pro-immigrant states,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road NJ.

Police officials and immigrant advocates at the news conference praised the directive. The conference was held with great symbolism at the Liberty State Park train terminal, where countless immigrants historically entered the U.S.

“It’s a pro-immigrant directive, and a pro-law enforcement directive. I think that’s so important, that folks trust us, talk to us, make our communities safer. Help our cops solve crime,” said Mike Kelly, chief of the Jersey City Police Department.

“This is really about them being able to do their job of keeping our communities safe — and it’s really hard to do that when the community does not trust you,” said Johanna Calle of the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

But ICE criticized the directive, saying it “… shields certain criminal aliens, creating a state-sanctioned haven for those seeking to evade federal authorities, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people the New Jersey Attorney General is charged with protecting.”

Grewal insists he’s not creating a sanctuary state.

“If you break the law in New Jersey, we will go after you, no matter your immigration status. No one gets a free pass. And we will push back against anyone,” said Grewal. “We will push back against anyone who tries to mischaracterize our new rules by sowing fear and misinformation.”

The new directive takes effect March 15, and it includes reporting requirements that the attorney general says will ensure compliance.