Sheriffs to New Jersey AG: We stand behind ICE because clearly you don’t understand the law.
The New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, is doing his absolute best to stop local and state law enforcement officials from participating with ICE.
New Jersey has been operating under a program called 287 (g). This program is essentially a contract with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement, where local and state agencies can notify ICE when they have someone in custody that the federal agency has issued a retainer for.
Grewal’s directive states:
“That no state, county or local law enforcement authority shall extend any 287 (g) agreement unless they received written approval from his office.”
Now, the sheriffs of Monmouth and Cape May are having to answer to the Attorney General as to why they extended their 287 (g) contract without that written permission form the AG’s office and why they should be allowed to continue it.
They must also show how the program is in the best interest of their counties.
Submitted as part of their ‘defense’ are eight instances of foreign nationals who have been arrested for violent crimes. A Guatemalan national was charged with aggravated assault with a handgun, terroristic threats, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Monmouth County corrections officers ran that individuals name through a federal database discovering the inmate had entered the United States on a visitor’s visa and never left. Those corrections officer placed an immigration hold on the inmate that notified federal immigration authorities.
A second man from Brazil landed at the same country jail on burglary, harassment, and domestic violence charges, and was also issued an immigration hold after it was discovered he had been apprehended at the border nearly three years earlier with his mother.
The sheriff wants to continue their participation in the program.
Veronica Allende, the director of the Division of Criminal Justice, wrote both counties a ‘stern letter’ last month demanding that each provide information about their program and to justify why these contracts should not be repealed or cancelled. Allende originally gave the sheriffs until August 9th to submit the information she requested, but last week extended the date one week, until August 16th.
These two sheriffs aren’t the only ones trying to work around the attorney general’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which was supposedly designed to promote trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.
Where is the conversation about the trust between law enforcement and the communities who are being affected by the crimes committed by these very individuals?
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders voted last week to “institute litigation.” This coming after officials at the county jail said they felt that they were legally obligated to prevent ICE agents from accessing an internal database to search for inmates who may also be in violation of federal immigration law.
Likewise, Sussex County Republican Freeholders revised a question that they want to add to the November ballot that would ask voters to decide if the county sheriff’s office should follow the directive.
Under the 287 (g) program, ICE trains local law enforcement officers to assist the federal agency in enforcing immigration laws.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden released departmental statistics to the attorney general’s office showing that between October 2018 through May 2019, 333 immigrants were flagged because of 287(g), and 39 were removed. A majority of those flagged — 188 — had immigration violations against them, while 66 were convicted criminals, and 122 had pending criminal charges.
Golden said in his letter that “the program is highly regarded and essential, particularly in light of bail reform, which largely eliminated bail so that people do not linger in jail awaiting trial.” The Monmouth jail started participating in the program in 2010.
“In the spirit of your objective for our collective communities the 287 (g) program is not meant to undermine community trust since it is only implemented within the four walls of the correctional facility,’’ he wrote.
Golden went on to say that there were minimal costs incurred by his sheriff’s office. The only cost would be if the officer trained under the program needed to be replaced to attend training, but in most cases, additional coverage was not required.
As an argument to it being in the best interest of his county, he stated that the program helps keep his county safe, as well as neighboring jurisdictions. “
Between 2017 and 2019, 25 people from other New Jersey counties, New York City, and even California were transferred into ICE custody after being apprehended in Monmouth,” he said.
His counterpart in this effort, Cape May County Sheriff Robert A. Nolan sent Grewal’s office a copy of the program agreement and the addendum to extend the contract. Nolan has stated that the only aspect of the agreement that his office facilitates is a notification to ICE prior to the release of inmates. He is seeking more time to submit a cost and benefit analysis, and other information the attorney general’s office wanted.
“By having direct access to the ICE database, the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office can more efficiently screen inmates to further protect our community by being able to confirm that the incarcerated, undocumented immigrants do not have criminal charges or convictions,’’ Nolan wrote to Allende in a letter. “We have not, or nor will we ever, participate in any activities related to arrest, detection, participation in ICE round-ups.”
The most appalling twist to Allende’s demands: both sheriffs will have to show what impact the program would have on the relationship between law enforcement and their immigrant communities. Allende also wants a summary of the public view if 287 (g). The best way to ascertain that information. They would have to hold at least one public meeting.
Golden stated that in July 2016, his office held a meeting with members of the Latino community, including American Friends Service Committee. He said that in that meeting was held to answer their questions and address their concerns. The meeting, he said:
“Led to a change in the program and required ICE to take custody of individuals within 24 hours after the county charges were satisfied.”
Chia-Chia Wang, organizing and advocacy director at American Friends Service Committee in Newark, said that meeting was requested by advocates and not by the sheriff’s office.
“There was only three of us meeting with the sheriff at his office in 2016, there were two meetings we initiated, and the meetings were to convince him to not renew 287 (g),” she said. “He didn’t reach out to anybody to ask for any opinion, and we requested the meeting.”
Allende, in a follow-up letter to Golden, asked him to provide specifics of the meeting, including whether it was public, what questions were asked, and what concerns were articulated.
We are seeing more and more leaders in the law enforcement community go against state level politicians to uphold the oath that they swore when putting on their badge.
And now they are being called on the carpet for upholding that oath. Politicians are increasingly acting in a manner that is jeopardizing to our law enforcement communities, and they are doing so to avoid hurting the feelings of those who are not in this country legally.
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