Government

County Adopts ICE Policy; Activists Say It’s a Good Start

bd1bfe1a990a211c5785_ice_adoption_3.jpg
Residents and activists read Middlesex County's policy last week on how its jail and sheriff's department must handle interactions with federal immigration authorities.
bd1bfe1a990a211c5785_ice_adoption_3.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — After many impassioned pleas from residents and at least one rewrite, the Board of Chosen Freeholders has adopted a policy barring Middlesex County officers from aiding federal immigration authorities in most cases.

The board voted 6-0 to approve the policy on Thursday, June 1, in New Brunswick. A few dozen pro-immigrant activists there applauded the move. But they also asked county officials to consider implementing even stronger protections.

As they worked to write the policy, Middlesex officials said they hoped it would safeguard both undocumented immigrants and the county from potential legal battles.

Sign Up for E-News

“This is the intent of the current freeholder board, and hopefully it will remain this way,” Freeholder Shanti Narra, who led the creation of the new policy, said during the meeting.

The policy governs interactions between the county’s adult jail and sheriff’s department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of Homeland Security charged with deporting undocumented immigrants.

Middlesex County has one of the state’s largest populations of undocumented immigrants, activists said. New Brunswick alone is estimated to harbor at least 20,000, they said.

“It’s a good sign overall,” Tracy Cangiano, who lives in Highland Park, said of the policy “and I hope that after there’s an affirmative vote on this, that these policies and procedures that keep getting talked about … continue to be worked on.”

The policy forbids the jail and the sheriff’s department from complying with 48-hour civil detainer requests. ICE agents submit these forms when a jail or law enforcement agency has in custody someone the feds suspect of being in the country illegally. The requests are voluntary, which means local agencies may ignore them, according to the county.

But two situations exist in which county staffers must honor the ICE’s detention requests, according to the policy.

That includes when the individual in question has been convicted of a first- or second-degree “serious offense,” or the equivalent in another jurisdiction, the policy states. More than 20 crimes fit this bill—from murder, aggravated assault and arson to recruiting gang members, selling drugs and human trafficking.

The other scenario in which county officers must hold people on behalf of ICE is when the agents present a final order of deportation signed by a federal judge, according to the policy.

A young man speaks in favor of policies and protocols protecting undocumented immigrants.

What has perhaps energized activists most in recent weeks is ICE’s ability to interview suspected undocumented immigrants at the county jail.

In the policy, the freeholders said they will continue to grant ICE access to the facility. But jail staffers will provide targeted individuals with a “written fact sheet” outlining their rights prior to the interview, according to the policy.

Freeholders said they also intend to launch a “language line” to ensure inmates can understand the information, even if they can’t read. That protocol, however, isn’t in the policy, a fact that troubled some residents.

Sheriff’s officers may not “in any way assist” ICE employees in detaining someone who’s not in county custody, according to the policy. The exceptions? If it’s “necessary” to arrest someone for a “crime in progress” or in the “immediate interest of public safety,” according to the policy.

This became another pressure point for immigrants’ rights advocates, who claimed that at least one Middlesex County sheriff’s officer helped ICE detain a man in the courthouse this spring. County officials said they’re looking into the incident, but they had yet to have interviewed the employee in question.

Speakers wondered whether “public safety” was too broad a term, while county officials said the condition is necessary to maintain order.

Some members of the public who spoke took issue with 48-hour detainers being granted based on prior convictions.

Convicts are capable of rehabilitating, they said, and society already has protections against dangerous individuals. Some argued that the setting such boundaries makes the policy too vague.

“I am concerned that this policy classifies people as deserving of constitutional protections and people who are not,” one woman said.

County officials said the benchmark isn’t arbitrary. They based the criteria on crimes that the federal government considers an automatic cause for deportation, Narra said.

She added that each listed offense—like drugs, for instance—is serious.

“You would have to have an awful lot of weed,” she said in response to a resident who was concerned about small amounts of marijuana or cocaine tearing addicts or recreational users from their families.

Lawyers and leaders for several activist groups, like the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, Food and Water Watch and the Alliance for Immigrant Justice, praised the policy during the meeting. But they added that, at least in the eyes of the county’s undocumented population and its activists, the adopted policy should serve as a starting point, not a finish line.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - June 19, 2018

TRENTON - It is June. That must mean our state lawmakers are yelling at each other over the proposed state budget, which must be adopted by the end of the month or government shuts down. Some media is refraining from coverage of the daily blow-by-blow, as the typical resident just assumes taxes will go up, no matter what. But, here is the latest. Gov. Phil Murphy has his proposed ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 18, 2018

DOWN THE SHORE - If you see all those mega-mansions on the beach, and admit to being just a wee bit jealous, here's something to quietly smile about: All of those glorious homes will likely be underwater.  NJ Spotlight reports rising sea levels make the New Jersey coast particularly vulnerable, with the Garden State ranking second to Florida with the biggest chronic risk ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 15, 2018

JERSEY CITY - Should topless women be allowed in the city?  That's the big issue consuming the City Council these days, as members continue to debate 1980s-era obscenity laws. There was supposed to be a vote at the council meeting on Wednesday, but it didn't happen. Before there is a vote, it appears the goal is to wrangle support of all nine members of the City Council. The nagging ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 14, 2018

EAST RUTHERFORD - The typical sports fan in New Jersey has until 2026 to get excited about professional soccer. That's because the Meadowlands could be the epicenter of the soccer world, a contender to host the World Cup. It could be  an amazing coup for New Jersey, although expect worldwide marketers to try to convince everyone that the big game would be played in "New ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 13, 2018

ATLANTIC CITY - When the Hard Rock Café and Casino opens June 28, a strip club will also open on the property. But this isn't your typical, dark titty bar. No, it is 36,000 square feet of space, about the size of a typical Marshalls. So, figure the place is wall-to-wall strippers, each jiggling for money. That could equal about 300 jiggles per minute on a ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 12, 2018

STATEWIDE - Perhaps it is time for the state to upgrade to Windows 95, as the second big computer crash in a week spelled disaster for the state's computer systems. The biggest hit came to the state's Motor Vehicle agencies, jamming efforts to renew driver's licenses, or for people to get titles or register vehicles. This mess somehow made the lines at the MVC even longer, the ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_b461bcb5f4e452996ec4_juneteenth_poster

Tue, June 19, 6:30 PM

Mt Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, New Brunswick

Juneteenth - a Day of Remembrance

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, June 21, 8:00 PM

New Brunswick

Sing-a-Long Grease: 40th Anniversary

Rutgers-led “Tick Blitz” finds exotic Longhorned Ticks statewide

June 5, 2018

New Brunswick, N.J. - Researchers at  University–New Brunswick’s Rutgers Center for Vector Biology have found exotic longhorned ticks in four New Jersey counties – and confirmed that these northeast Asian ticks have been present in the Garden State since at least 2013.

The new detection of these ticks in Mercer County was made through the first-ever statewide ...

Rutgers football stadium has a new name

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Many still call it Rutgers Stadium.

But for seven years, the university's football stadium has been known as High Point Solutions Stadium, thanks to a $600,000 annual agreement with a Sparta-based company. But, as the company has shifted its marketing, so has the stadium's name.

So, now, Rutgers is officially home to "HighPoint.com Stadium" for the 2018 ...

Composer lyrisicist Sondheim at Rutgers, tells would-be writers ‘it’s hard work’

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Acclaimed Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim says his work is less about talent and more about the labor and drudgery of “hard work.”

“It’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s not about talent,” Sondheim said Friday while speaking before an audience at Rutgers University’s Nicholas Music Center.

“You ...

Couple netted $8M from fake Uggs, designer bags, prosecutor says

June 15, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A Plainsboro couple could face charges of of selling counterfeit designer shoes and handbags, netting $8 million and sending $3 million to people in China, authorities said today.

Yan Shi, 36, and her husband, Weiping Liu, 40, were arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree money laundering and second-degree conspiracy to violate the New Jersey Trademark ...

OPINION

Hearing Loss Common in School-Aged Children

May 30, 2018

With close to 15% of U.S. children ages 6–19 experiencing hearing loss, New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) notes that May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month is the ideal time for parents to learn more about the sometimes-subtle signs of hearing loss, ways it can affect school-aged children, and where to find help.

“Some children are born ...

Promise Culinary School Slates Open Houses June 21 and 22 In New Brunswick with Tours, Tastings, Prizes

June 15, 2018

Promise Culinary School will host open houses for the community and prospective students on Thursday, June 21, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5  to 7:30 p.m., and on Friday, June 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at 211 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. The events are free and open to the public.

The events will include kitchen tours, demonstrations, tastings, raffles and prizes. Tours and activities ...

Ensure Safe Sleep While Traveling with Baby

June 6, 2018

As we approach the summer, there will be plenty of expected travel for families, from visiting grandma at the beach to heading out on a long, well-deserved vacation. 

When staying overnight at a friend’s or family’s place, it is important to maintain the same sleep practices as you do at home. Your baby should be sleeping in a safe, modern crib that meets the latest ...