The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently announced the addition two New Jersey police departments to the highly-controversial program known as 287(g), which deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Now the state’s Attorney General Anne Milgram is warning officers in the Garden State not to engage in racial or ethnic profiling. The AG also reminded officers that they cannot ask about a person’s immigration status “as part of an on-the-street encounter.”
The Morristown Police Department and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office are ready to join the program that has recently faced a barrage of renewed criticism from pro-immigration and Hispanic advocates. Last week, a coalition of 500 organizations launched a national campaign against it.
The program, created under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, grants “a state and local law enforcement entity … delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions,” according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But Wednesday Milgram cautioned the New Jersey agencies in a letter that they will still have to comply with the state’s prohibition on “racially-influenced policing,” The Star-Ledger reported.
“The principal mission of law enforcement officers in this state is to enforce the criminal laws and to protect the communities that they serve. It is not to enforce federal immigration laws.”
In response to the letter, Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello was quoted as saying the AG has no authority over 287(g) enforcement because it involves federal, not state, laws.
New Jersey has seen its share of racial profiling by law enforcement agencies — including numerous incidents involving the State Police. So much so, that last week Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law a series of reforms implemented by the police force in response to its troubled past.
The law enforcement guidelines issued by Milgram state that officers “cannot act as federal immigration officials when patrolling the streets,” The Associated Press reported.
“Police officers participating in the program may only question people’s immigration status after they have been arrested for a serious violation, and the inquiry can take place only during an arrest, not as part of a street encounter, Milgram stated.”
“Officers also are prohibited from detaining people to trigger questioning of their immigration status.”
Milgram also warned that enforcement of immigration laws by local police can destroy the force’s relationship with the community, a point that’s been made repeatedly by police chiefs across the country in the face of the increased crackdown on illegal immigration started under President Bush and continued by the Obama administration.
According to The A.P., Morristown Mayor Cresitello has said six police officers from the town’s force of 58 will be trained by ICE over five weeks, possibly starting in October. Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno said her officers would only check inmates’ immigration status.