Justifiably, there is a distrust between immigrant communities and police. Fear of being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) overwhelms immigrants. This ever present fear pushes immigrants to avoid law enforcement interaction, sometimes at all costs. Unfortunately, this means that not only do immigrant communities lose the support of local police, but local police lose the support of these communities. Just like anyone else, immigrants can be witnesses to crimes. The testimony of an immigrant may be a critical element in being able to bring criminal charges against an offender. This is why New Jersey is implementing the “Immigrant Trust Directive”. It is an attempt to bridge the divide between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.
What is the New Jersey Immigrant Trust Directive?
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued the Immigrant Trust Directive to all State, County, and Local law enforcement agencies. The Directive instructs all New Jersey agencies to limit the types of voluntary assistance that their offices may provide to ICE and other federal civil immigration authorities. It means to make clear that New Jersey State law enforcement officers have responsibilities to enforce State criminal laws, but not to enforce federal civil immigration laws. That is the responsibility of federal immigration authorities.
One of the main reasons for this directive is to help make sure that immigrants feel they are in a safe space to report crimes to local law enforcement. The Attorney General made it clear that undocumented individuals who commit crimes will still be held responsible, but those undocumented immigrants who are reporting crimes should feel safe to do so without backlash from federal immigration authorities. Advocates of the new directive believe that when immigrants feel safe to report criminal activity, communities become safer.
Under the Directive, New Jersey law enforcement will be allowed to hold an immigrant, but not past their release dates. This applies even if ICE were to submit an immigration detainer request. State law enforcement agencies will, however, be authorized to notify ICE of the pending release of an inmate if the inmate committed a serious crime such as murder, rape, arson, or assault. Still, officers will not be allowed to hold these inmates past 11:59 PM the day they are scheduled to be released.
While the attorney general stands firm that the directive is in the best interest of New Jersey, he still expects some backlash from ICE and other Federal agencies. ICE maintains that the directive will lead to an increase in at-large arrests and worksite enforcement operations. The agency has already pushed back by releasing information regarding some of the more serious crimes that have been committed by undocumented immigrants that were released from local jails. The incidences ICE is highlighting include the fact that local law enforcement refused to cooperate with immigration detainers and released the undocumented immigrant that proceeded to commit a serious crime. The fact remains, however, that multiple studies reveal immigrants to be less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.
Advocates for Immigrants
Too many immigrants live in fear of deportation. The current political climate in the United States does nothing to ease this fear. If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). You can also visit our Law Firm’s website at www.visaserve.com