3 NJ sheriffs contest attorney general; renew agreement with ICE

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Republican sheriffs in three New Jersey counties have contested a directive by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and renewed agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under an immigrant trust directive Grewal issued last year, law enforcement officers across New Jersey are mostly barred from enforcing federal immigration law. But sheriffs in Cape May, Monmouth and Salem counties renewed policies that allow ICE into county jails.

“What you can’t do is just go and do something like this, which flouts the directive, which flouts the authority that I have over law enforcement in this state,” Grewal said.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden says that he is just trying to do his job.

“If we do have people who are brought into our facility that are charged criminally and that ICE has a detainer for, we take a look at that person and do the evaluation per the policy,” Golden says.

RELATED: Rules restricting NJ law enforcement’s cooperation with ICE go in effect

The policy, known as 287G after the section of federal law it comes from, allows local law enforcement to be "...qualified to perform a function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens..." Monmouth County's jail has been part of the program for nine years, and in March signed a 10-year renewal.

“Some people have the misnomer or the idea that we're out in the communities, seeking out individuals, as law enforcement. That's a job for ICE. That's not our job, that’s not our mission,” Golden says.

Grewal's immigrant trust directive says that counties can't renew the agreements without his approval. It has landed the sheriffs in hot water with the attorney general's office.

“There is a conflict here between federal and state,” says Golden. “We see it, not just here in New Jersey but we do see it around the country.”

But Newark immigration attorney Regis Fernandez says that it is likely that the local authorities will back off and that Grewal will get his way.

“The state can tell its people what to do. That doesn't mean that the feds can't arrest people and do their own investigation. If you really get rid of the illegal immigrants in New Jersey, the New Jersey economy will totally collapse,” Fernandez says. “I mean, think about it. You already pay enough taxes. Go after the most dangerous one and leave the guy who’s cleaning your lawn or doing your laundry alone.”

Golden says that he renewed the agreement with ICE one week before the immigrant trust directive went into effect.

Grewal has ordered Golden and the other sheriffs to turn over records to his office. Golden said he will comply.

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