Sheriffs defend renewed contracts with ICE despite AG’s rebuke

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden is firmly unapologetic about renewing his agency’s long-standing contract to cooperate with ICE agents in apparent disregard of a November directive from state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to notify his office first before signing any such agreements.

“The administration, the governor and the [attorney] general, have a certain policy, and we run a certain program that’s in conflict with that policy. We’re going to try to reconcile the two and see if we can continue our 287(g) program here in the county,” Golden said. “It’s something I believe in. I don’t think we should be release a criminal, in that case, to go out and do more harm to our residents here in Monmouth County.”

Golden and Cape May County’s sheriff both renewed so-called 287(g) contracts, pledging undocumented immigrants with criminal records detained at the county jail would be turned over to ICE within 24 hours. In sharply-worded letters, the Attorney General’s Office alleged both sheriffs’ failure to notify them “… suggests that you deliberately declined to disclose this information.”

Golden’s reply contends Monmouth renewed on March 8, a week before the attorney general’s directive took effect and before the state issued belated guidelines on April 30. The contract remains in effect even though Grewal has emphasized a new direction for law enforcement.

“That is not our job to enforce the immigration laws. We are not here to figure out what your status is or what your status isn’t. Our job as state law enforcement officers is to enforce the criminal laws of this state, and that’s all we told our law enforcement officers through that directive,” Grewal said in April.

“We’ve had a successful program in Monmouth County,” Golden said. “We’ve worked with ICE for over 10 years on 287(g). Certainly in no way in the spirit of the directive, we’re in no way in the communities threatening or creating a lack of trust within the Hispanic community here in Monmouth County.”

Last year, Monmouth surrendered 40 undocumented immigrants from its jail to ICE out of more than 7,800 total inmates held in the county. Immigrant advocates warn that local law enforcement continuing to cooperate with ICE chills their relationship.

“How are immigrant communities supposed to trust their local law enforcement if they are now saying they want to continue to work with the Trump administration on immigration enforcement — especially under the current circumstances where we’re seeing the Trump administration literally separating families and children,” said Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Immigrant Alliance.

The attorney general’s guidelines don’t prohibit 287(g), but they require a cost-benefit analysis, years of detention data and a public hearing before possible approval.

Cape May Sheriff Robert Nolan said he’ll address the county’s next steps in due time, but noted, “I have sworn an oath to protect the people of this county. The 287(g) helps keep criminals from returning to our streets, which keeps Cape May County safer.”

“This is a process that has to take place. We’ll go through the process and we’ll see what the outcome is,” Golden said.

Golden says he’ll work with ICE to submit the required justification for renewing the contract to the Attorney General’s Office. He says he hopes it’s approved.