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ICE threatens New Jersey after state implements pro-immigrant policy

"We don't respond to threats. We're focused on protecting New Jersey's residents from harm."

ELIZABETH, NJ - DECEMBER 10:  Police arrest protesters blocking the entrance of an immigrant detention center on December 10, 2013 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups marked international Human Rights Day, staging the civil disobedience action at the Elizabeth Detention Center, and eight protesters were arrested. The event was designed to draw attention to the continued mass deportations of undocumented immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as Congress' inability to pass immigration reform. The Obama administration is on track to have removed 2 million immigrants from the United States, the most of any presidential administration.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
ELIZABETH, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Police arrest protesters blocking the entrance of an immigrant detention center on December 10, 2013 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups marked international Human Rights Day, staging the civil disobedience action at the Elizabeth Detention Center, and eight protesters were arrested. The event was designed to draw attention to the continued mass deportations of undocumented immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as Congress' inability to pass immigration reform. The Obama administration is on track to have removed 2 million immigrants from the United States, the most of any presidential administration. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has responded to new pro-immigrant law enforcement policies implemented by the state of New Jersey with a veiled threat of more raids.

One day after New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unveiled the state’s new “Immigrant Trust Directive,” a spokesperson for the ICE office in Newark told NBC New York in a statement that ICE raids will “likely increase” as a result of the directive.

“The probability is that at-large arrests and worksite enforcement operations, which already exist, will likely increase due to the fact that ICE [Enforcement and Removal Offices] will no longer have the cooperation of the jails related to immigration enforcement,” ICE spokesman Emilio Dabul told the outlet in an email adding “the highest priority is public safety and enforcing immigration laws, we must pursue that to the best extent possible, which will likely involve more at-large arrests and worksite enforcement operations.”

The Immigrant Trust Directive is the nation’s most comprehensive set of pro-immigrant law enforcement policies, going further than states like California, Oregon, and Illinois in protecting undocumented immigrants in their interactions with state police.

As ThinkProgress has previously reported, the directive would:

  • Prevent New Jersey police from “stop[ing], question[ing], arrest[ing], search[ing], or detain[ing] any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status” or “ask[ing] the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense….”
  • Prohibit police from participating in immigration raids or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations.
  • Limit when and how immigration enforcement agents can enter local jails and require police officers to notify individuals in custody of their rights with regards to immigration.
  • Prohibit New Jersey law enforcement agencies from entering, renewing, or extending 287(g) contracts — which allow police officers to act as immigration enforcement — “unless the Attorney General grants written approval.”
  • Establish new guidelines for how police officers must respond to and support immigrant crime victims who cooperate with police officers

The Immigrant Trust Directive erases an earlier edict from 2007 by former New Jersey AG Anne Milgram, which effectively gave state law enforcement officials carte blanche to question anyone about their immigration status and notify federal authorities if they believed someone they arrested was in the country without documentation.

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In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office responded to the comments made by ICE officials with: “We don’t respond to threats. We’re focused on protecting New Jersey’s residents from harm.”

The state Attorney General’s office has every right to believe that ICE puts New Jersey residents in harm, considering the agency’s history of “harsh and inhumane” conditions at their New Jersey detention centers. A report from Human Rights First found that detainees were often served rotten food with maggots, lacked proper medical care, and were subjected to racism and discrimination from detention center employees.

Under the Trump presidency, which has nearly tripled the number of non-criminal immigrant arrests in the last year, the 2007 directive allowed for a number of New Jersey ICE raids to rock the state’s immigrant communities.

Since Trump was inaugurated, the number of undocumented immigrants in New Jersey increased by 42 percent. In 2017, only 60 percent of those arrested in the state had prior criminal convictions.

In April, 60 undocumented immigrants were arrested in a state-wide raid, while 37 were arrested in a five day sweep across Middlesex County last July. These raids motivated grassroots groups like Make the Road New Jersey to push for a new directive that would end police cooperation with federal immigration agents and rebuild community relationships with police so immigrants can feel comfortable reporting to their local officers.

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“[The raids] created a climate of extraordinary fear,” Sara Cullaine, director of Make the Road New Jersey told ThinkProgress. “People pulling their children out of schools, too afraid to be out in public. Afterwards came the big campaign to push our state to not aid in deportations.”

The directive goes into effect on March 15, 2019.