In Brief

N.J. cops can’t share immigration info with feds, appeals court decides

By: - August 10, 2021 7:00 am

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck speaks at a gun violence prevention press conference in Paterson, New Jersey (Credit: NJOAG Youtube)

New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive, an order restricting authorities from sharing immigration information with federal officials, has been upheld by a federal appeals court, ending a legal battle between the state and two counties.

The three-judge panel rejected the counties’ arguments that federal law pre-empts New Jersey from implementing the directive, which immigrant advocates say has been vital in protecting the state’s undocumented immigrant community from deportation.

“The Immigrant Trust Directive has been one of the most significant steps our state has taken to keep immigrant families safe during a time when skyrocketing ICE deportations and detentions terrorized our communities,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based Latino immigrant advocacy organization. “The Third Circuit has upheld what we all know — we are all safer when our police are not deputized to rip families apart through deportation.”

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said Monday he hopes the decision “brings an end to this years-long litigation, as we continue doing the hard work of promoting good policing policy.

“New Jersey residents should never be afraid that interacting with our cops as victims and witnesses will lead to their deportation,” he said.

When then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the directive in November 2018, he declared it was a “pro-immigrant and pro-law enforcement” initiative that sought to repair trust between immigrant communities and local cops. It blocks law enforcement from asking people their immigration status or aiding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in detention arrests.

It went into effect in March 2019, and was revised later that year to prohibit sheriff’s departments from extending 287(g) agreements, which allow officers to act as immigration agents in jails.

The directive permits undocumented immigrants charged with certain crimes to be turned over to ICE officials, but only if agents pick up the person the day they’re released from jail. And agencies seeking to work with federal immigration officers must provide documentation to the attorney general.

The Ocean County Board of Commissioners and Cape May Sheriff Robert Nolan challenged the order, arguing it obstructed federal law, specifically the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The Justice Department, under former President Trump, later joined the lawsuit and filed its own complaint.

A federal judge dismissed the claims in July 2020, which the counties appealed. On Monday, the Third Circuit announced its ruling in a 13-page opinion.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, 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.