Court again upholds directive that limits info sharing with ICE

By: - January 27, 2022 6:40 am

Cape May County Sheriff Bob Nolan (Courtesy of Cape May County)

A Superior Court appellate panel Wednesday upheld the Immigrant Trust Directive, a 2018 order limiting local police from sharing information with federal immigration authorities that was challenged by Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan.

The 35-page decision is the second time in recent months the law has been upheld. Nolan challenged the directive in federal court, too, and lost an appeals court ruling there in August, a decision he called “shameful.”

The directive was issued by then-state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal during Gov. Phil Murphy’s first term as part of the Murphy administration’s pledge to assist the state’s undocumented immigrant community. Nolan, a Republican, claims Grewal violated the federal government’s superseding authority on immigration matters. 

Cape May County was one of three counties that had entered what’s called a Section 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which allowed county law enforcement to act as immigration agents in the jails. Grewal’s directive forced sheriffs in Cape May, Monmouth, and Salem counties to halt their cooperation with ICE, which they had renewed a decade before. 

Nolan and the Ocean County Board of Commissioners argued the directive equates to an administrative rule that should have been created in accordance with rule-making procedures.

The court said in Wednesday’s decision that because the order was issued to all agencies, it falls under intra-agency communication and is thus exempt from the typically required rule-making process.

The judges sided with Grewal’s argument that his office is permitted to make choices on how to best allocate limited resources.

“By issuing the directive, the attorney general has chosen to ensure that limited state, county, and local law enforcement resources are directed towards enforcing the criminal laws of this state rather than federal immigration laws, ‘except in narrowly defined circumstances’ or where ‘required to do so by law,'” the decision states.

Undocumented immigrants charged with certain crimes may still be turned over to ICE agents under the directive, but only if agents pick up that person the day they are released from jail. Any state entities seeking to work with federal immigration agencies must agree to provide documentation to the attorney general’s office.

Though Grewal has since resigned to become a director with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck has called the directive an important step in fostering trust in marginalized communities.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office declined to comment, adding the “decision speaks for itself.”

The Cape May Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a call seeking comment. 

At the time the directive was announced, Grewal declared it a “pro-immigrant and pro-law enforcement” initiative aimed at repairing trust between immigrant communities and local police.

Immigrant advocacy organizations have argued that, without the directive, the state’s undocumented community would fear their status would be questioned if they spoke to police about local criminal matters. New Jersey is home to about 460,000 undocumented immigrants.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) introduced a bill seeking to codify the directive into law last session, but it did not go up for a vote.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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