Saying that elected officials are creating a climate of fear with anti-immigrant rhetoric, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was in Union City yesterday to let the immigrant community know that they can trust law enforcement officers.
The AG was in attendance at the Spanish American Baptist Church for the 4th annual Immigration Conference, co-sponsored by the NJ Reentry Corporation, along with the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the New Jersey State Bar Association.
It was just over a year ago when the Attorney General held a press conference at Liberty State Park to announce the Immigrant Trust Directive.
This limits the types of voluntary assistance that New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies can provide to federal civil immigration authorities, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to the directive, New Jersey’s law enforcement officers cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status.
They also cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation.
In an interview, Grewal said that there’s quite a bit of fear in the Latino-American community and in immigrant communities in general across the state that they can’t reach out to law enforcement because they might end up in deportation or be turned over to ICE.
He stressed that fear among the immigrant community is making the job of law enforcement officers more difficult because if the immigrant community isn’t coming forward when they’re a victim of violence or fraud, then crimes go unreported, criminals remain on the street and justice remains unserved.
“It’s important for everyone to know that if you go to state law enforcement, our number one job is to protect and to serve you and that we will not turn you over to ICE or immigration authorities,” Grewal said.
“We will listen to your concerns, prosecute an abuser or anyone who takes advantage of you.”
Since the Immigrant Trust Directive went into effect, Grewal said that there hasn’t been any pushback from the federal government in terms of litigation.
There also hasn’t been any retaliation from any law enforcement officials across the state, though elected officials in several counties have challenged the legality of Grewal’s directive, as well as his ability to enforce that.
“We’re fighting that in court and those cases are consolidated in federal court, and we’re confident that we’ll prevail in those cases,” Grewal said.
During his public remarks, Grewal said that the legacy of inclusion and immigration is very personal, as both his parents emigrated to the country in the 1960s.
He noted that today circumstances are very different, and he placed direct blame on U.S. President Donald Trump for stoking the flames of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“Today, we have a president that dehumanizes immigrants, by warning of marauding caravans, by referring to them as thugs, claiming that they want to infest our country. The unfortunate result of all this rhetoric and all of his policies is that the federal government has cultivated a culture of fear.”
That’s why, according to Grewal, he expanded the directive this year to stipulate that New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies wouldn’t be entering into 287g agreements, where the county and/or municipal governments collaborate with ICE.
“That doesn’t promote public safety, because out of the 18,000 or so law enforcement agencies in the US, less than 90 have agreements. That’s less than one-half of one percent, so 99.5 percent of law enforcement know that these agreements don’t make us more safe,” Grewal said.
The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders terminated this deal back in March 2018.
Johanna Calle is a member of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigration Justice and in an interview, we asked her whether the Immigrant Trust Directive has helped to assuage fears in the immigrant community.
She said that she believes it has, but at the same time, she feels it is important to educate and convey to the immigrant community that ICE will continue with enforcement activities, regardless of the directive.
“So, we also don’t want communities to feel that they’re 100 percent safe from deportation or enforcement, but [the directive] is helping people to understand that if someone has an interaction with a local police officer who asks them for immigration status, well now you know that is not supposed to be happening.
“The attorney general is here to tell you that, and people can actually report it,” said Calle.