On November 29, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive turning the Garden State into a sanctuary state. The New Jersey Attorney General, unlike those of most states, is appointed by the governor, in this case Governor Phil Murphy (D), so this appears to be the first case of a state being made into a sanctuary for illegal aliens by the unilateral executive action of a non-elected official.
In short, the directive prohibits all state and local law enforcement agencies and officers in New Jersey from:
- Stopping, questioning, arresting, searching, or detaining anyone based solely on actual or suspected immigration status or actual or suspected civil immigration violations;
- Asking anyone about their immigration status unless it is “necessary to the ongoing investigation of an indictable offense by that individual; and … relevant to the offense under investigation”;
- Participating in immigration enforcement operations;
- Providing “non-public personally identifying information” to federal immigration authorities;
- Providing access to non-public office space, equipment, databases or property to federal immigration authorities;
- Providing access to anyone in their custody to be interviewed by federal immigration authorities unless they sign a form indicating they voluntarily consent and have the right to have a lawyer present;
- Providing notice to federal immigration authorities of a person’s upcoming release unless they’re currently charged with or have ever been convicted of a “violent serious offense,” or have been convicted of another felony within the previous five years;
- Holding anyone on a federal immigration detainer unless they’re currently charged with or have ever been convicted of a “violent serious offense,” or have been convicted of another felony within the previous five years, even in which case they still may not be held past 11:59 of the same day; or
- Entering into, modifying, renewing or extending any 287(g) cooperative agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) except with the written approval of the Attorney General (three county sheriffs in New Jersey currently have such agreements).
The directive also instructs prosecutors in New Jersey to: “not simply assume that a non-citizen presents a risk of flight” for purposes of setting bail; “not seek to admit … evidence [about immigration] without first raising the issue with the Court outside of the jury’s presence;” and “be mindful of potential collateral consequences [such as deportation] and consider such consequences in attempting to reach a just resolution of the case.”
ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence immediately condemned the directive, saying it “undermines public safety and hinders ICE from performing its federally-mandated mission … 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 NJ Attorney General is charged with protecting[.]”
Opposition lawmakers were quick to respond with outrage as well. Assemblyman Parker Space (R) said the “directive creates a protected class of criminal … It is an insult to every hard-working citizen who plays by the rules that the state will let some crimes go for illegal immigrants just to protect them from immigration officials. … our state’s top law enforcement officer should be treating everyone equally under the law.”
Senator Steve Oroho (R) echoed the same sentiment, stating that “[e]very immigrant, legal or otherwise, should be concerned when our government slowly becomes more like the countries they are fleeing … One of the reasons so many people want to come to this country is because we treat everyone equally, but these rules give preferential treatment to non-citizens,” while Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R) added that “[t]his special treatment provides immunity instead of justice[.]”
The directive goes into effect on March 15, 2019. In the meantime, Attorney General Grewal may want to reconsider whether it really protects New Jersey’s citizens and upholds equal justice for all as he swore to, or whether it recklessly endangers those citizens in order to benefit illegal aliens and elevate them into a privileged class above the law at citizens’ expense.