Yesterday TAPinto posted a video clip featuring resident Nancy Choffo, who praised a recent township resolution protesting Parsippany’s so-called status as a “sanctuary city,’’ a designation that is not official or even factual in this case. The resolution condemns recent state attorney general directives preventing local police from enforcing federal immigration law. Choffo fears that it will endanger residents and create “chaos.’’ She thanked the council for “following U.S. law.’’
However, even before the new state guidelines, local police officers in New Jersey and throughout the U.S., have never been required to assist ICE, whose job is to enforce federal immigration law, not criminal law. In towns that have never been dubbed “sanctuary cities,’’ and previously in New Jersey, cooperating with ICE is discretionary. For example, compliance with an ICE request to hold a person 48 hours after they would normally have been released – such as when charges are dropped, the individual is found innocent or when bail has been secured -- is voluntary, not mandatory. In fact, compliance with detainer requests has often been ruled unconstitutional.
In America, local police departments are not required by federal law to question people about their immigration status, arrest them if they suspect they are undocumented or report them to ICE. Many departments choose not to collaborate with ICE because they believe it undermines public safety, since undocumented immigrants or their loved ones are less likely to report violent and serious crimes if they fear the threat of deportation.
Under New Jersey law, officers can notify ICE in the case of a serious or violent offense, if the person has a final deportation order signed by a judge, or if they have been charged in the last five years with an indictable offense. Parsippany Mayor Michael Soriano has repeatedly reassured residents that police would be required to work with ICE in those circumstances.
It’s also important to note that the Parsippany Chief of Police supports the state guidelines. The Daily Record quoted Police Chief Andrew Miller as follows: "I'm very confident in the AG and county directives on this...I think it backs up and protects the law enforcement process. I appreciate it because there is no gray area. In the past, there had been gray areas where officers were uncertain about what they could and couldn't do.. It is the mission and goal of Parsippany police to comply with those directives.’’
It would be great if TAP would also interview Miller so he could clarify how the Attorney General's directives play out in Parsippany and hopefully alleviate fears, in addition to clearing up misinformation.