A new federal lawsuit filed against New Jersey by the Department of Justice seeks to declare the Immigrant Trust Directive as unconstitutional for putting any limitation on cooperation with federal authorities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This follows federal lawsuits filed back in the fall by Ocean County and Cape May County based on similar grounds.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who signed the directive in 2018 and oversaw it going into effect in March 2019, calls the new lawsuit an "election year stunt" by the Trump administration.

There's been a lot of discussion and accusations over what the directive bans when it comes to immigrants in this country illegally, with a common criticism that it makes New Jersey a "sanctuary state." Grewal repeatedly has said nothing prevents law enforcement from arresting criminals in New Jersey.

Months after the directive was in effect, the state’s top law enforcement agency threatened action against two county sheriff’s offices that defied the policy by renewing cooperation agreements with ICE.

Letters were sent in July to Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden and Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan, followed by a clear order from Grewal to both sheriffs in September to "wind down" their 287(g) agreements with ICE.

In response, Cape May County filed its federal lawsuit in October challenging the directive.

Ocean County already had filed its own lawsuit a month earlier, calling the directive unconstitutional, which collected resolutions of support from more than a dozen municipalities in the county.

"These are challenging times for law enforcement, as we do not recall a directive that has ever been issued to ignore the laws of this country or state," Golden, a Republican, said in a statement after the order to end the agreement.

Golden continued in September: "As a result, we shall continue to pursue legal remedies to this directive, which deprives Monmouth County of the ability to identify individuals who have committed crimes and are here illegally."

A handful of other communities around the state also adopted their own resolutions against the idea of New Jersey acting as a "sanctuary state," in objection of the limitations on cooperation with ICE.

“Critics like to claim that we are providing quote — sanctuary — to dangerous criminals. Nothing could be further from the truth," Grewal said in September, calling the idea a false narrative being pushed by critics and adding "No one — I repeat, no one — gets a free pass in this state to commit crime.”

The following is a list of common questions about the Immigrant Trust Directive and its impact on law enforcement.

Can police stop or search any person based on immigration status?
No, law enforcement "cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status" under the directive.

So, under the directive, is a person able to be pulled over just for being in this country illegally?

No, not under the directive.

Can police pull over a motorist for doing something illegal and ask for identification, even if the person is in this country illegally?

Yes. Nothing in the directive prevents officers from requesting proof of ID from an individual during the course of an arrest or when legally justified during an investigative stop or detention.

Can state and local law enforcement allow an ICE agent to interview a person arrested on a criminal charge?

Only after that person is advised of his or her right to a lawyer.

Can ICE agents use a local police department's database?

No. Under the directive, ICE agents can only use "resources readily available to the public" at the state or local level, including equipment, office space and property.

Can local police take part in a joint task force with federal authorities seeking child predators?
Yes. The directive still permits joint law enforcement task forces, provided the primary purpose is unrelated to federal civil immigration enforcement.

Can state police take part in an immigration sweep headed up by ICE?
No. No level of law enforcement can take part in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by ICE.

Can police ask the immigration status of a person caught jaywalking or whose meter ran out in a parking lot?

No. Under the directive, law enforcement can only ask the immigration status of a person when it is "necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation."

Can police work with ICE during a time of crisis? 
Nothing stops law enforcement officers from assisting federal immigration authorities in response to "emergency circumstances."


With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao and Dan Alexander

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