Gurbir Grewal. Photo by Carmen Natale/ALM

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Thursday sharply limited the assistance that all state, county and local law enforcement officers may offer to federal immigration authorities—specifically U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The move illustrates the deep policy differences between the state’s Democratic administration and those of Republican President Donald Trump, who has taken an aggressive approach toward immigration enforcement.

“The new rules are designed to strengthen trust between New Jersey law enforcement officers and the state’s diverse immigrant communities,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

“Today’s directive is intended to draw a clear 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 statement said.

ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The directive applies to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies, including police, prosecutors, county detectives, sheriff’s officers and correction officers.

The overall objective, according to the office, is to ensure that immigrants feel safe reporting crimes to state and local law enforcement officers.

The office called Directive 2018-6 the “Immigrant Trust Directive,” and said it goes into effect immediately.

The directive mandates that, except under limited circumstances, the state’s law enforcement officers:

  • May not 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.
  • Cannot allow ICE to interview an individual arrested on a criminal charge unless that person is first advised of his or her right to a be represented by counsel.

The announcement noted that the directive does not restrict the 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,” Grewal said in the announcement.

Veronica Allende, the director of the Division of Criminal Justice, added, “We cannot allow the line between our law enforcement officers and U.S. immigration officials—or the line between state criminal law and federal civil immigration law—to become blurred.”

The directive includes a number of specific exceptions:

  • Officers may help federal immigration authorities in response to emergency circumstances.
  • Officers may participate with federal authorities in joint law enforcement task forces, so long as the primary purpose is unrelated to federal civil immigration enforcement.
  • Officers may request 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 New Jersey law enforcement agencies from entering or renewing Section 287(g) agreements with federal authorities. Under such agreements, state and local agencies are deputized to enforce federal civil immigration laws without permission from the Attorney General’s Office.

The directive also prohibits New Jersey authorities from providing U.S. immigration authorities with access to a detainee for an interview, unless that person has signed a written consent.