NEW JERSEY — Police officers across the state are now restricted from asking you certain questions because of a directive issued by state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
Grewal’s policy — which applies to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies — also limits the types of voluntary assistance that police may provide to federal civil immigration authorities, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to a press release, the new rules are designed to strengthen trust between law enforcement officers and the state’s diverse immigrant communities. The directive is intended to draw a line between the responsibility of New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers to enforce state criminal laws, and the responsibility of federal immigration authorities to enforce federal civil immigration law. The directive seeks to ensure that immigrants feel safe reporting crimes to law enforcement officers, and applies to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies, including police, prosecutors, county detectives, sheriff’s officers and correction officers.
Known as the “Immigrant Trust Directive,” the rules provide that, except in limited circumstances, New Jersey’s law enforcement officers:
- Cannot stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status;
- Cannot ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a serious offense and relevant to the offense under investigation;
- Cannot participate in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by ICE;
- Cannot provide ICE with access to state or local law enforcement resources, including equipment, office space, databases, or property, unless those resources are readily available to the public;
- Cannot allow ICE to interview an individual arrested on a criminal charge unless that person is advised of his or her right to a lawyer.
Grewal emphasized that nothing in the directive limits state law enforcement agencies from enforcing state law. Nothing in the directive implies that New Jersey provides “sanctuary” to those who commit crimes in this state, he said, and nothing restricts police from complying with federal law or valid court orders, including judicially-issued arrest warrants for individuals, regardless of immigration status.
“We know from experience that individuals are far less likely to report a crime to the local police if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to federal immigration authorities,” said Grewal in a press release. “That fear makes it more difficult for officers to solve crimes and bring suspects to justice.”
Grewal added that, “No law-abiding resident ... should live in fear that a routine traffic stop by local police will result in his or her deportation from this country.”
“Grewal has provided New Jersey law enforcement with a clear, comprehensive directive that will greatly assist investigators with building trust among all of our communities,” said State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan in the press release. “Trust between law enforcement and witnesses and victims of crimes is essential to not only solving cases, but also locating missing people, and it is the foundation of building a long lasting relationship with everyone we serve.”
The directive includes a number of specific exceptions and exclusions, including:
- Nothing stops officers from assisting federal immigration authorities in response to emergency circumstances.
- Officers may participate with federal authorities in joint law enforcement task forces, provided the primary purpose is unrelated to federal civil immigration enforcement.
- Nothing in the directive prevents officers from requesting proof of identity from an individual during the course of an arrest or when legally justified during an investigative stop or detention.
The directive prohibits police from continuing to hold a detained person arrested for a minor criminal offense past the time he or she would otherwise be released from custody simply because ICE has submitted an immigration detainer request. It also prohibits notification to ICE of such a person’s upcoming release.
The directive prohibits New Jersey authorities from providing U.S. immigration authorities with access to a detained individual for an interview, unless the individual signs a written consent form that explains the purpose of the interview, that the individual may decline the interview, and that he or she may have legal counsel present.
Under the rule, prosecutors cannot seek pretrial detention of an individual based solely on his immigration status, and generally cannot attack a witness’s credibility at trial based on immigration status.
All county prosecutors are required to conduct outreach to educate the public about the directive.
As part of today’s announcements, the Attorney General’s Office has recorded short videos describing the directive in nearly a dozen languages, using New Jersey law enforcement officers who grew up speaking a different language at home. Those videos, along with additional information about the directive, are posted at www.nj.gov/trust.