Advocates Praise Newark Police’s Refusal to Honor 'Immigration Holds'

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
August 15, 2013 12:00 am

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Order Protects Public Safety and Rights of Immigrants by Rejecting Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Requests to Detain City Residents Without Warrants or Legal Justification

August 15, 2013

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NEWARK, N.J. – Civil rights and faith leaders today applauded a groundbreaking policy change instituted by Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio to decline immigration detainers issued to the department by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). Under the policy change, the Newark Police Department will no longer honor ICE’s requests to hand over to immigration authorities Newarkers arrested for offenses as minor as shoplifting.

“Law enforcement officials across the country have recognized that local police officers should not be in the business of federal immigration enforcement,” said Udi Ofer, executive director of the ACLU-NJ. “With this new policy in place, the Newark Police Department has made it clear that all residents, regardless of their immigration status, are safe to cooperate with the police. This policy ensures that if you’re a victim of a crime, or have witnessed a crime, you can contact the police without having to fear deportation. This will make all Newarkers safer.”

The general order, which went into effect July 24, makes Newark the latest American city to adopt a policy forbidding its officers from complying with a detainer request from ICE. Chicago, New York and New Orleans have also adopted policies. Immigration detainers are nonbinding requests issued without a warrant by ICE asking law enforcement to hold someone in custody on the federal immigration enforcement agency’s behalf. ICE sends detainers without probable cause, the legal standard required for an arrest. However, these nonbinding requests sow suspicion in communities of immigrants by discouraging cooperation with police and force police departments to re-prioritize their spending, threatening public safety as a whole.

“We are thrilled that Newark is standing in solidarity with immigrant families by rejecting all future collaboration with the federal deportation apparatus,” said Emily Tucker, Staff Attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Spending local tax dollars to take parents away from their children and workers away from their jobs is both morally wrong and bad for the economy. We hope the Newark policy will serve as a model for the rest of New Jersey, and for cities around the country who don’t want local resources being spent to help ICE meet its arbitrary enforcement quotas.”

The new policy means the city will not have to shoulder the additional cost of holding people without warrants at the behest of ICE. The order aims to protect public safety, as community members will not have to fear that cooperating with the police or reporting a crime will land them in immigration detention. The Newark Police Department will still report information to ICE upon the arrest of an individual, but nothing legally compels local law enforcement agencies to respond to requests to detain immigrants for ICE.

“We are heartened by this vital and healthy relationship between the Newark police and the many immigrant communities within the city of Newark,” said Father Tim Graff, Director of Human Concerns with the Archdiocese of Newark. “The directive signals the beginning of a collaborative effort to improve confidence in law enforcement among our parishioners.”

“This policy is absolutely essential in a city like Newark, where trust between local law enforcement and the community is crucial to protecting public safety,” said the Rev. Karl Esker of St. James Church in Newark and the head of Justice for Immigrants Campaign of the Newark Archdiocese. “We thank Director DeMaio for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working as partners in strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and Newark’s immigrant community. In the last several years, the federal government has increasingly relied on local law enforcement to funnel immigrants into the detention and deportation dragnet through problematic information-sharing initiatives that devastate the stability of communities.”

Supporters of the policy include New Jersey Communities United, the Center for Popular Democracy, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, Newark Archdiocese Department of Social Concerns, St. James Church, St. Lucy ‘s Church, St. Anne’s Church, Church of the Transfiguration, and New Labor.

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