• James C. Hawkins

New Jersey is a Sanctuary State

New Jersey is now designated as a sanctuary state. Late last year the New Jersey Attorney General issued a directive to state, county, and local law enforcement - the Immigrant Trust Directive - which provides guidelines and limits the activities of law enforcement and ICE. The purpose of the new directive is to strengthen the trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. New Jersey is only the second state to claim sanctuary status, second only to California. The changes to the law will provide immigrants with better protection of their rights.


Restrictions on Law Enforcement


The Immigrant Trust Directive focuses on the protection of immigrants and provides law enforcement and particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with new rules that they must follow. Law enforcement and ICE officials now:


  • Cannot stop, question, arrest, search or detain anyone based solely on their actual or suspected immigration status

  • Cannot ask the immigration status of anyone unless it is necessary as part of an ongoing investigation or relevant to a serious offense

  • Cannot participate in civil immigration enforcement operations performed by ICE

  • Cannot provide ICE with access to any law enforcement resources including equipment, space, database and property except those that are accessible to the public

  • Cannot allow ICE to interview an arrested individual unless the person is advised of his or her right to an attorney


In addition, the directive prohibits police from holding an immigrant longer than otherwise required simply because of an ICE detainer request. ICE cannot be informed of the detained individual’s release except in cases in which the individual is charged with a violent or serious offense. ICE does not automatically have access to detained individuals for an interview without written consent.


The directive provides clear communication to law enforcement and ICE officials that must be followed at all times. The directive lets people know that the police will protect and care for all members of the community equally. Police officers are not actively looking for green cards or immigration status.


Exceptions to the Immigration Directive


There are some exceptions to the rules that are included in the directive. It is important to note that the police can still assist federal immigration authorities when responding to an emergency. In addition, officers may be included in task forces alongside federal authorities for purposes that are unrelated to federal civil immigration enforcement. The directive does not prohibit officers from requesting proof of identity in the course of regular police response, investigation, or arrest. In other words, police are to treat immigrants the same as all other citizens.


Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey must develop procedures to assist victims and witnesses in applying for T visas and U visas. The Division of Criminal Justice is to create a training program to explain the details of the directive to members of law enforcement agencies. The Attorney General’s office provided videos to

law enforcement agencies that describe the details of the directive in various languages.


If you or a loved one has any questions or concerns with immigration policies or procedures, contact BlackHawk Immigration Consulting for the guidance you need.

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