New Jersey announces restrictions on ICE cooperation

Posted: Updated:
JERSEY CITY -

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General announced new rules limiting law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the new directive Thursday at the historic rail terminal at Liberty State Park, an entry point for millions of immigrants.

Grewal says the directive is aimed at drawing a clearer distinction between federal immigration authorities and state, county and local law enforcement officers.

“We’re telling our friends and our neighbors who have been living in fear, ‘You can trust state law enforcement. You can trust state prosecutors,’” Grewal said.

Under the “Immigrant Trust Directive,” police can't question, search or arrest anyone based solely on suspected immigration status. They also can't ask a person's immigration status unless it's necessary in investigating a serious offense.

RELATED: Rutgers University professors say recent ICE arrest goes against ‘safe haven’
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Police also are barred from participating in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by federal authorities.

“They fear that a call to police will end in their total deportation and so…they don’t say anything when they’re victims of violence or fraud,” said Grewal.

Grewal also made it clear that the new directive will not make New Jersey a “sanctuary state” for criminals. He says that anyone, regardless of immigration status, who breaks New Jersey state laws will be prosecuted.

Immigration advocates say that the new directive is a great stop for New Jersey.

“What the directive does is push back against what has become incredibly abusive and cruel attacks by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents,]” says Sara Cullinane, director of immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New Jersey.

New Jersey officers aren't barred from assisting federal authorities during emergency circumstances.

ICE officials reportedly slammed the new directive, saying that it shields certain criminal aliens, creating a state-sanctioned haven for those seeking to evade federal 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," the agency said in a statement.

The directive goes into effect March 15.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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