DOJ tells Newark, Middlesex County to drop non-compliant sanctuary policies

On the same day, the Department of Justice warned Newark, Middlesex County and other sanctuary cities and counties to follow immigration law or risk losing federal, crime fighting dollars, a federal judge ruled that Philadelphia had complied with a law that bans cities and counties from restricting contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The administration in Washington will continue pressing its views about we should treat immigrants and will demonize them as a group. The rhetoric will not stop, unfortunately. As the court noted, we know what we are doing here in Philadelphia and we won’t scare our law-abiding immigrants back into the shadows,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka hailed the ruling.

“Philly won their case and it did irreparable harm to their city, and I think other cities are going to follow suit. I believe the letter, at this point, has no strength,” said Baraka.

The ACLU said in a statement: “The Trump administration’s attempts to bully Philadelphia officials into using local resources to carry out federal immigration policies not only would have interfered with the work of local police, but violated the Constitution.”

The Justice Department said it’s reviewing the ruling, and sanctuary policies further undermine public safety and law enforcement, a theme echoed in the lieutenant governor’s failed gubernatorial campaign.

“If you’re an illegal immigrant and you commit a crime in New Jersey, you should be detained and deported. It doesn’t take a lot of common sense … It’s also going to make sure that we don’t lose funding,” said Kim Guadagno.

Federal authorities want cities and local police to help them target some immigrants by, for instance, letting them know when an immigrant of interest would be released from jail or the jail allowing ICE agents to enter to interview immigrants.

Newark Police said no immigration status would stop it from pursuing anyone wanted for a serious crime. Congressman Bill Pascrell said the argument that cities and towns would look the other way is a myth.

“No one’s stopping that. Obama did it, this administration can do it,” said Pascrell.

This week, Pascrell and other congressional members pleaded with the DOJ to release $174 million in federal grants to law enforcers across the country and in six territories.

“There are, I think, 41 communities throughout the state of New Jersey that are being penalized because of the Justice Department sending a political message to the right wing cronies,” said Pascrell.

The Trump-Sessions Justice Department has developed a reputation for litigation relentlessness on immigration. Pascrell said it needs a reminder.

“On every turn that they’ve tried to stop progress in America, they’ve been turned back by the courts. Thank God we have a checks and balance system here. We do not have an oligarchy. We do not have a monarchy. We do not live in Russia,” he continued.

Newark and other sanctuary cities now wait to see when or if they’ll get the crime fighting grants, or will they too have to battle the administration in court.