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Sussex County Votes Against Supporting New Jersey Sanctuary State Immigration Trust Directive

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On Election Day, Sussex County, New Jersey, voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot referendum on whether the county should cooperate with federal immigration officials. The ballot measure was in response to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal’s December of 2018 Immigrant Trust Directive, which effectively declared New Jersey a “sanctuary state.”

Sussex County Immigration Ballot

In response to the ballot question, “[s]hould the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Sussex County cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assist in complying with and enforcing federal immigration law by making county resources available to ICE,” garnered 22,081 “yes” votes and 10,982 “no” votes.

After the vote, Attorney General Grewal told reporters that while counties are “free to express [their] views publicly” they “may not ignore a law enforcement directive.” The ballot measure and Sussex County’s refusal to implement the Immigrant Trust Directive is likely to face a federal court challenge by New Jersey as well as proponents of the Directive.

About the Immigrant Trust Directive

The New Jersey Immigrant Trust Directive went into effect on March 15, 2019, ending any cooperation between the New Jersey and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) on immigration enforcement matters. The Directive has led to New Jersey’s designation as a “sanctuary state” by federal officials, who have increased ICE enforcement actions as a result.

Announced in December of 2018 by Attorney General Grewal, the Immigrant Trust Directive prohibits state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, including police, prosecutors, county detectives, sheriff’s officers, and correction officers from doing the following:

  • Stop, question, arrest, search, or detain any individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status
  • Ask the immigration status of any individual, unless doing so is necessary to the ongoing investigation of a severe offense and relevant to the offense under investigation
  • Participate in civil immigration enforcement operations conducted by ICE
  • 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
  • Allow ICE to interview an individual arrested on a criminal charge unless that person is advised of his or her right to a lawyer
  • Assist unauthorized immigrants who are victims of human trafficking or crime, or assisted in a criminal investigation, to apply for a visa to remain in the United States, such as the S, T, and U nonimmigrant visas
  • Enter into agreements to assist ICE in New Jersey immigration enforcement operations

Moreover, the Immigrant Trust Directive mandates any state, county, or local official to report to the Office of the Attorney General any instance in which the official assisted ICE.

What the Immigrant Trust Directive Doesn’t Do

The Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Practice Group reminds New Jersey immigrants and employers: the Immigrant Trust Directive does not prevent ICE from effectuating an arrest within New Jersey, opening new and expanding current ICE facilities in New Jersey, increasing the number of federal agents assigned to the state, or continuing to expand the worksite inspection program. Also, it does not confer any lawful immigration status.

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