New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has issued a directive to state, county, and local law enforcement agencies that prohibits them from participating in agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), known as 287 (g) agreements.
The name 287 (g) comes from a federal statute that allows local law enforcement agencies to work with immigration authorities.
The only remaining agencies out of more than 500 in the state that seek to maintain contractual obligations with ICE are the police departments of Monmouth and Salem counties.
The 287 (g) agreements in these two counties allow police departments to deputize officers as ICE agents. Those officers are required to report anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally to the federal government.
The agreements involving Monmouth and Salem counties are one type of 287 (g) contract. Another, such as the one still active in Hudson County, allows county prisons to house ICE detainees.
Grewal said that 287 (g) agreements undermine the public’s trust of law enforcement agencies. He cited a prior directive, the “Immigrant Trust Directive,” which barred New Jersey law enforcement agencies from working in conjunction with ICE by using various methods to vet individuals to determine their immigration status.
Grewal said that the lack of public trust that comes as a result of law enforcement working with ICE makes it less likely that members of the public would be willing to report crimes.
“The goal of the Immigrant Trust Directive is clear— to make it easier for New Jersey’s law enforcement officers to solve crimes and ensure the safety of all 9 million people in our state by building trust with our large and diverse immigrant communities,” Grewal said. “Because of the bright line between New Jersey law enforcement officers and federal civil immigration agents, immigrants can come forward as victims and witnesses of crimes without fear of reprisal.”
Grewal argued that while the new directive establishes boundaries between the duties of ICE and New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies, police departments will not be hindered in investigating or charging individuals suspected of a crime, regardless of their immigration status.
“To be clear, nothing in the directive provides ‘sanctuary’ to dangerous criminals,” Grewal said. “If you break the law, you go to jail, regardless of your immigration status. And, the directive explicitly allows county jails to identify the most violent and serious offenders, such as those who commit murder, rape, and domestic abuse, and notify [ICE].”
Hudson County slow on the uptake
In early 2018, Hudson County officials announced their intent to end a 287 (g) agreement with ICE for holding inmates on ICE detainers in the county jail, in the wake of activism spurred by a tremendous spike in the number of arrests and deportations ICE carried out in New Jersey and the rest of the country, and several deaths in the county correction facility.
The 287 (g) agreement between the county and the federal government allowed ICE to pay Hudson County $110 per bed per day to house hundreds of federal detainees imprisoned for immigration violations.
ICE also sends its detainees to jails in Bergen and Essex counties, and compensates those counties.
Hudson County was the fourth-to-last county in the state to announce it will end ICE contracts.
In September 2018, County Executive Tom DeGise announced his intent to see the contract expire in 2020. Shortly after his announcement, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution to do so, and to direct more funds that come from ICE toward detainee services. Until 2020, however, the status of the contract between ICE and Hudson County will not be altered.
Until then, the Hudson County Correctional Center will house ICE detainees.
In the wake of protests led by immigration advocates, county officials have said that many ICE detainees preferred to stay in local facilities instead of being moved to new locations, where access to family members and lawyers would be more limited.
In 2017, activists alleged that human rights violations occurred in the Hudson County Correctional Center after medical reports confirmed that ICE detainee Rolando Meza Espinoza died of hemorrhagic shock and multi-organ failure connected to prior conditions.
In the wake of the freeholders’ resolution, some immigration activists expressed concern that it would simply take another vote to draft another contract, should the first one expire.
The Attorney General’s directive to end 287 (g) on a statewide level further reinforces the push to end collaboration with ICE across the state.