With the population of immigrants living in the United States illegally estimated to top a half-million, it’s not surprising that several towns in the Garden State have so-called “sanctuary city” policies in place.

Border Patrol (John Moore, Getty Images)

These informal policies may restrict police from questioning people solely about their immigration status, but sometimes they can also direct local and county officials to not cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to turn over immigrants who are living here illegally.

Some New Jersey towns and cities that are considered to have sanctuary policies in place include Newark, Jersey City, West New York, North Bergen, Union City, Trenton, Camden and New Brunswick, but some local officials dispute the designation. In addition, a few deny that any such policies exist.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Cream Ridge) is concerned that in some cases, municipal or county jails that are not cooperating with federal ICE officials and refusing to hold illegal immigrants in their lockups, are actually releasing convicted criminals who may be dangerous.

His proposed legislation would prohibit Sanctuary City policies and require that local and county officials fully cooperate with federal immigration and customs enforcement authorities and hold illegal immigrants who have committed crimes until ICE agents can take them into custody.

Dancer says this measure is aimed at making sure ICE officials can get their hands on illegal immigrants wanted under the Priority Enforcement Program for committing such crimes as “driving while intoxicated, participation in any type of criminal gang activities, domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, unlawful use or possession of a firearm or drug distribution.”

He said under his legislation “these individuals would have to be detained up to 48 hours to allow the federal ICE authorities to take custody of them.”

“We can no longer turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these types of policies that are being practiced, this cannot continue,” Dancer said.

His measure stipulates that if municipal, county or state officials don’t cooperate with ICE, they would be charged with violating the state ethics law, and they could also face fines, penalties and even imprisonment.

Dancer believes the current situation doesn’t make sense.

“It’s not only insane, it is unsafe to the public here in the state of New Jersey," Dancer said.

He said only immigrant criminals would be targeted under his bill, while immigrants in the U.S. illegally, who have not committed crimes, would not be affected by it.