NEWARK — The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its own lawsuit Monday against New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, challenging two aspects of the state administration's Immigrant Trust Directive that limits cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

The new suit was filed roughly two weeks after a court filing from the department, in support of previous federal lawsuits brought by Cape May County and Ocean County. The directive went into effect in March 2019, after being signed by Grewal in November 2018.

The Immigrant Trust Directive puts into effect the limits on local cooperation with immigration authorities that Murphy promised during his campaign, when he said t “if need be, we will be a sanctuary not just city but state.” His administration has backed off the term "sanctuary state," arguing its rules are specifically geared to limit local cooperation on immigration matters, but don't give "sanctuary" to dangerous criminals.

“Today’s lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice, seeks to restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments," U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito said in a written statement.

"The complaint challenges two provisions of the (Immigrant Trust) Directive, which limit the situations in which local, county and state officials can provide notice to federal immigration authorities of a detained individual’s upcoming release and mandates that local, county and state officials inform detainees of certain events,” Carpenito said, while also noting the restrictions appeared to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Grewal, in a written statement, said it was "no surprise that the president, facing re-election, has suddenly decided to challenge the Immigrant Trust Directive, a policy we announced in 2018."

Grewal continued "What's disappointing is that my former colleagues at the Justice Department have agreed to go along with this election year stunt."

The federal lawsuit specifically calls out the law enforcement directive for preventing state officials from sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) related to the immigration status and release dates of individuals in their custody.

The suit also seeks to stop New Jersey law enforcement from being required to “promptly notify a detained individual, in writing and in a language the individual can understand,” if ICE files an immigration detainer request for the individual.

Ocean County filed its federal lawsuit in September, challenging the state's Immigrant Trust Directive as "unconstitutional, invalid and unenforceable."

Then in October, Cape May County officials filed their own lawsuit, which also called the policy a violation of the Constitution that prevented the county sheriff from doing his job to keep residents safe.

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