SPARTA, N.J. – Assemblyman Parker Space and Hal Wirths were joined by state Sen. Steve Oroho in opposing new rules announced by the state attorney general Thursday that limit law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The directive prohibits law enforcement officers from questioning anyone about their immigration status and aiding federal agencies in civil immigration matters.  But the lawmakers were particularly concerned with warning prosecutors to be mindful when bringing forward charges that may affect immigration status – even if the crimes are violent in nature.

“This directive creates a protected class of criminal,” said Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris).  “It is an insult to every hard-working citizen who plays by the rules that the state will let some crimes go for illegal immigrants just to protect them from immigration officials.”

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The lawmakers said that the directive discourages prosecutors from bringing charges on immigrants living in the country illegally as federal immigration officials have routinely made arrests in some county courthouses.

“This special treatment provides immunity instead of justice,” said Wirths (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris), “and will directly hurt our efforts to curtail human trafficking and illegal importation of narcotics, opioids and illegal firearms.”

Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased 30 percent between fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Deportations increased at a similar rate between Jan. 20, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2017. That's up 31 percent over the same time period a year earlier.

“Every immigrant, legal or otherwise, should be concerned when our government slowly becomes more like the countries they are fleeing,” said Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris).  “One of the reasons so many people want to come to this country is because we treat everyone equally, but these rules give preferential treatment to non-citizens and that is an ethical concern.”

“If the attorney general or anyone else wants to sit down with us and work on ways to help people enter our country legally, I am all for it,” concluded Space.  “But in the meantime, our state’s top law enforcement officer should be treating everyone equally under the law.”