More ICE arrests of immigrants in neighborhoods and workplaces likely coming in New Jersey
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announces The Immigration Trust Directive North Jersey Record
Arrests of immigrants rose 35 percent in New Jersey in 2017, but advocates fear the numbers could increase even further amid new threats from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE)of more at-large arrests in neighborhoods and workplaces.
ICE said last week that it would conduct at-large arrests in response to a new directive, issued by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, ordering local law enforcement to limit cooperation with the federal agency.
“As a result of limited cooperation with local and state authorities, ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” the agency said in a statement.
Advocates said they were not surprised, because ICE has been more aggressive with arrests in New Jersey counties that have similar policies restricting cooperation in immigrant arrests.
“They’re trying to hold the community hostage,” said Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “They say either law enforcement and localities do ICE’s work for them or they’re going to terrorize communities. Those are the choices ICE is putting before us, and it’s a serious issue.”
Advocates said it would sow fear in communities that already have been shaken by a spike in arrests that have targeted foreign-born residents who are undocumented and legal residents with alleged immigration violations.
“They are threatening to arrest whomever they want whenever they want regardless of public safety,” Calle said. “That’s why local law enforcement doesn’t want to work with them.”
Under the state directive, local law enforcement officers will be barred from participating in immigration raids or operations except in emergencies.
State or local agencies also cannot hold a person arrested for a minor criminal offense at the request of ICE. They can notify ICE in cases of serious or violent offenses or if the person has a final deportation order, but they can detain the individual only until 11:59 p.m. on the day of release.
Grewal said the directive draws clearer boundaries on the role of local law enforcement at a time when federal immigration authorities have dramatically increased detentions and deportations. It will improve trust and help victims and witnesses to feel safe reporting crimes, he said.
But Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a national group that favors limiting immigration, called New Jersey’s new policy “political grandstanding” and said the attorney general was putting political interests ahead of safety.
“If the intent of the attorney general is to protect people who are just violating immigration laws … essentially what he is doing is endangering or imperiling the status of other people who might be around when ICE is looking for the guy they released,’’ he said.
Mehlman said the attorney general’s directive goes against existing federal immigration laws that prohibit local governments from blocking an employee’s ability to communicate with federal immigration authorities.
“Clearly, under the law that exists, what the New Jersey attorney general is doing is beyond the scope of his authority,’’ he said.
New Jersey joins California and other states with similar policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
In California, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 54, which prohibits local authorities from participating in most federal immigration enforcement actions. That law is being challenged in court by several towns, including Huntington Beach, which argue that the law violates their right to local control.
New Jersey released videos in 10 languages online explaining the directive and reassuring people that local police will not detain them over immigration status and that their duties are separate from those of ICE.
Lauren Herman, supervising attorney for Make the Road New Jersey, said the level of fear in immigrant communities about raids and arrests was already high. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations in Newark said its officers arrested 3,189 people in fiscal year 2017, a 34.7 percent increase over the previous year. It conducted 2,536 removals, a 31 percent jump from 2016.
People have been arrested outside their homes, at work and during interviews at ICE offices. Collateral arrests have been occurring already, meaning ICE has detained people who were not the target of an enforcement action but were at the site of an arrest.
“People are afraid of law enforcement across the board,” Herman said. “That’s why it’s so important for the attorney general and for law enforcement across New Jersey to make it really clear that their job is not to carry out civil immigration enforcement.”
In Middlesex County, where officials passed policy limiting cooperation with ICE, the agency has issued numerous statements carrying similar messages that they are sheltering “criminal aliens.”
Students and supporters welcome teacher Ahmed Abdel-Basit home with cheers and celebration. He was released from immigration detention Aug. 23, 2018. Hannan Adely, Staff Writer, @AdelyReporter
Chia-Chia Wang, the director of organizing and advocacy at American Friends Service Committee, said she believes ICE has been more aggressive in enforcement in that county.
“If it’s true that they will be conducting larger-scale raids, that will be really concerning,” she said. “As advocates, we will need to do more to help immigrants know their rights and inform more groups, churches and houses of worship. We should also brainstorm with the Attorney General’s Office and see how they can better support communities.”