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 - April 24, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - Yeah, yeah, New Jersey has really high taxes. And, yeah, it is super expensive to live here. So, yet another study is out, with the American Legislative Exchange Council ranking New Jersey second-to-last among states in economic performance and 46th in economic outlook, ROI-NJ reports. The study, called "Rich States, Poor ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 23, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

STATEWIDE - First, there was a turkey in every pot. Then there was the "Square Deal," the "New Deal" and now Sen. Cory Booker says it is time for government to offer a, uh, great deal: A job to anyone who wants one. He is proposing federal grants that would select 15 "local areas" in which adults could get a job at $15 an ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 20, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ON THE ROAD - It looks like a State Police trooper is going to have to head to the bars to pick up chicks, indicted yesterday for intentionally pulling over women in a desperate attempt to land dates. Internal affairs learned the Trooper was pulling over two lovely ladies at the end of 2016, threatening to arrest them if they didn't hand over their ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 19, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

PLAINFIELD - Those who dabble in Union County politics are learning this morning that the former Democratic chairman, Jerry Green, has died at age 79 after a long illness. Green, a longtime assemblyman from Plainfield, rose through the ranks from serving on the freeholder board in the late 1980s.  He will be remembered as a Roselle native, a ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 18, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

PATERSON - At campaign rallies, why not just cut to the chase? That's what's happening in the Silk City, where a local social media celebrity was handing out $20 bills to would-be voters at a rally on Sunday for mayoral contender Pedro Rodriguez. Our favorite entertainer of all time, Fatboy SSE, had a thick wad of cash, which he was passing out ...

The Jaffe Briefing - April 17, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

AT THE POLLING BOOTH - Guess what? New Jerseyans don't like the Trump tax plan. It's also not surprising that a potential voter revolt could flip all five of the state's Republican House seats, according to a new Monmouth University poll. NJ.com reports that the new federal tax bill disproportionately hurts taxpayers in New Jersey ...

Rutgers professor named Pulitzer Prize finalist

April 19, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - For Evie Shockley, poetry – and her professorship at Rutgers University–New Brunswick – are central to her engagement with a world that needs change and central to the ways she prepares students to do their own engagement.

This week, Shockley was selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the poetry category. The Pulitzer ...

Rutgers Professor Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

NEW BRUNSWICK - Helen M. Berman, Board of Governors distinguished professor emerita of chemistry and chemical Biology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Berman is among 213 people elected to the academy this year, including author Ta-Nehisi Coates, actor Tom Hanks, President Barack Obama, Supreme ...

Questions now swirl around reported Rutgers theft

NEW BRUNSWICK - A crime alert issued by Rutgers police about an armed robbery on Tuesday April 10 has turned out to be false. 

Upon further investigation, police said the alleged incident in front of the Campbell Hall dorm on George Street did not happen as was initially reported. Police had said initially that the suspect showed a handgun, ordered the ...

NB Public Schools task force takes on chronic absenteeism

April 19, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK – Being absent for just two days each month means a student will miss 10 percent of the entire school year – enough to negatively impact that student’s academic performance.

It’s sobering information, and a clear demonstration that chronically absent students are at a tremendous educational disadvantage, one from which many of them will never recover.

OPINION

Safe Sleep for Babies Requires Effort from All

April 10, 2018

For more than a decade, my organization, Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), has sounded the steady drumbeat of safe sleep awareness, which in turn has created bans on dangerous products and has helped enact laws that work to ensure babies are sleeping safely.

In 2018, KBS kicked off its latest awareness campaign designed to promote safe sleep practices and products ...

'Elementary, My Dear Watson!' Solving Mysteries with Genetic Geneaology

April 20, 2018

The next meeting of the New Brunswick Historical Society will be on Thursday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. Andrew May will speak about Genetic Genealogy. Humans are 99.9% identical in their genetic makeup, yet, differences in 0.1% of our DNA has helped us answer questions about our recent and deep ancestral origins. Direct-to-consumer DNA testing provides the toolbox for solving difficult ...

Why People Should Visit Black Churches and Black People Should Welcome Them

March 29, 2018

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick,

In New Jersey, segregation is a cultural issue that demands the immediate attention of Christians. Nearly 87 percent of Christian churches in the U.S. are either made up of only white, or only African-American parishioners. When we worship in the comfortable bubble of segregation, we miss the opportunity for racial reconciliation, as mandated by Jesus:

"A ...