Fair and Welcoming Platform Educational Press Brief

NJAIJ is a statewide coalition of 43 member organizations, representing 150,000 people, that creates and achieves policies that support New Jersey's immigrants. We uphold the human, civil, and labor rights of all immigrants, whether documented or seeking status, and prioritize keeping families together.

The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) launched the Fair and Welcoming - New Jersey for All - Platform in March 2021.(1) The platform aims to achieve a “New Jersey for all” by creating statewide policies that allow immigrants to feel safe in their communities, and allow individuals and families to feel confident and secure when accessing critical State and local public services. 

The Fair & Welcoming Platform will achieve these goals by... 

  • Passing legislation (S-3361 / A-5207) to prohibit the State, local government agencies, and private detention facilities from entering into, renewing, or extending immigration detention agreements, and
  • Passing legislation (Values Act) to prohibit collaboration between State and local agencies and federal immigration enforcement authorities, unless required by federal law. The Values Act builds on the best intentions of the Immigrant Trust Directive by closing loopholes and ceasing State and municipal government agencies’ entanglement with federal immigration enforcement agencies, such as ICE & CBP, by: 
    • Limiting how State and local agencies collect and share personal information on immigration and citizenship status, and requiring agencies to review and update confidentiality policies to make data more secure.
    • Prohibiting all State and local law enforcement agencies from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration authorities (such as ICE or CBP), including participating in immigration enforcement by holding an individual on a detainer request, or providing access to an individual for an interview, among other cooperation that is not required by law. 
    • Delivering the promises that the Attorney General’s Immigrant Trust Directive (ITD) failed to do by closing loopholes that expose immigrant community members who have had prior contact with the criminal legal system to double punishment. 
    • Replacing harmful terms like "alien" from State statutory language so that laws affirm our State values and immigrant communities’ right to belonging and inclusion.

What are the impacts of federal immigration enforcement and collaboration in New Jersey?

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation, where nearly one in four residents is an immigrant. Over 2 million immigrant residents who call the Garden State home, making New Jersey the state with the second-highest percentage of foreign-born residents. Despite these numbers, many immigrants' ability to thrive is hampered because State and local agencies collaborate with immigration enforcement. Over the last five years, courts in New Jersey have ordered the deportation of immigrants over 4,000 times. (2)

Immigrants -- documented and undocumented -- avoid State services that they are legally eligible for out of fear that they will face blatant discrimination, future immigration repercussions, or immediate punitive measures when data shared by State officials (based on known or perceived status) falls into immigration enforcement’s hands. 

These community fears are confirmed by the data which shows that New Jersey’s State and local agencies continue to cooperate, sometimes voluntarily, with ICE requests: 

  • New Jersey Policy Perspective’s analysis of Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) data shows that over the past 10 years, State and local law enforcement received over 32,000 ICE requests, but refused at most only 6% requests in any given year.* (3)
  • In 2019 alone, New Jersey’s law enforcement and correctional officials collaborated with ICE over 1,700 times by allowing ICE to conduct 551 interviews of individuals in local custody. 

ICE detainer requests are voluntary, non-binding requests made to local law enforcement to hold an individual beyond the time they would otherwise be released. These detainers allow ICE the opportunity to interview someone and take them into immigration custody prior to release by the local law enforcement agency.

The Values Act disrupts this handoff by eliminating the voluntary sharing of that information and including rigorous reporting mechanisms to deter the collaboration loopholes that currently exist in the Immigrant Trust Directive.

How does data security affect access to State and local public services? 

Data shows that both documented immigrants, including citizens (5) and non-citizens fear availing themselves of State and local resources due to fears that any personal information provided to these agencies could be shared with ICE. According to a 2018 national survey, 33% of adults in families with one or more undocumented immigrants reported avoiding at least one everyday activity in which they feared they could be asked about their citizenship status. These activities included driving a car, reporting a crime, and visiting a doctor. (6) Immigrants regardless of status, including naturalized citizens and green card holders, reported fearing discrimination and immigration enforcement if they engage in even these routine activities that are essential to community safety and public health. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the exclusion and marginalization of New Jersey’s immigrant communities further compounded and validated fears over seeking State and local public services. (7) Latinx immigrant communities faced the highest rates of COVID-19 and deaths, yet Latinx residents in New Jersey reported avoiding COVID-19 testing or healthcare out of fear that seeking these services could jeopardize their ability to stay in the U.S. Whether it is getting tested for COVID-19, accessing healthcare, or simply trusting the information shared by State authorities, New Jersey’s current policies do not instill immigrants’ confidence in access to important public resources. Building this confidence will be more urgent than ever as New Jersey looks toward economic recovery since our social safety net is strongest when all residents are confident in seeking the services they need and deserve.

New Jersey’s lack of firm barriers between State and local agencies’ data collection means that immigration enforcement is able to prey upon communities who are most vulnerable by exploiting resources and access to personal information. In particular, under the Values Act, State and local agencies would be prohibited from inquiring about a person’s immigration status except to the extent it is necessary to determine eligibility for those services. Agencies would also adopt policies that prevent sharing data and databases with outside agencies who use the data to enforce federal immigration law. These measures secure our state and our communities from future, vengeful Federal administrations and encourage immigrant New Jerseyans to seek the critical services to which they are entitled, including healthcare, education, and social services. 

How does the Values Act differ from the 2018 Attorney General’s Immigrant Trust Directive (ITD)? 

The ITD provides impermanent protection that is limited in scope and hampered by a long list of carve-outs and exceptions. Because the Directive is the product of the current Attorney General and is not codified as law, its protections are also vulnerable to changes in administration. The Legislature must therefore act to insulate immigrant protections from changes in political leadership.  

Further, the ITD currently leaves a broad swath of individuals vulnerable through 17 policy  “carve-out” exceptions -- circumstances in which law enforcement is given the green light to collaborate with ICE. These exceptions include: 

  • permitting local law enforcement to report individuals to ICE who have had prior contact with the criminal legal system -- even if that individual has only been charged with a crime but has not been convicted.
  • allowing State and local law enforcement officers to report individuals to ICE if they are subject to a Final Order of Removal, a decision by an administrative Immigration Judge. 
  • avoiding due process and applying potentially racially motivated profiles when inquiring about a person’s place of birth on a correctional facility intake form and making risk-based classification assignments in such facilities. 
  • A full list of exceptions is included in Section II B and Appendix A of the ITD.(8) 

Consequently, many immigrants fear calling the police for help because they could face an arrest by ICE. In For example, in NJAIJ’s platform launch, a community member from member organization Make the Road New Jersey shared a personal story about a police call she made during a domestic dispute. Instead of receiving the protection she needed from local police, she was arrested and then turned over to ICE even though no charges were pressed against her. Another mother, from the member organization Faith in New Jersey, shared the story of her spouse’s arrest while bringing their daughter home from daycare. 

Although New Jersey State agencies, including law enforcement and correctional facilities, continue to collaborate with ICE, there are few reporting mechanisms to inform New Jersey’s advocates, immigrant communities, and the general public about the depths of their entanglement and cooperation. Since the enactment of the ITD two years ago, there has been limited available data on its implementation and data is reliant on self-reporting by police departments. The single report issued by the State in 2020 shows only a few incidents of collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE, but revealed hundreds of instances of collaboration between ICE and State and county correctional facilities. (9) The report provided very little detail, however, on the circumstances of this collaboration, rendering it ineffective for immigrant justice advocates and government or police transparency advocates alike. The Values Act requires more rigorous reporting requirements, leading to improved oversight, transparency, and accountability.

Endnotes 

(1) New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice. Fair and Welcoming - New Jersey for All. www.njimmigrantjustice.org/fairwelcomingnj

(2) Kapahi, Vineeta. 2021. “Cooperation with ICE Deepens Racial and Economic Disparities in New Jersey” NJPP.

*(3) “TRAC notes that law enforcement agencies’ refusal to honor detainer requests is an optional field in ICE’s database and may not be reliably recorded.” Kapahi, Vineeta. 2021. “Cooperation with ICE Deepens Racial and Economic Disparities in New Jersey” NJPP. 

(4) New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. 2020 Immigrant Trust Directive Annual Reporting Form.

(5) Rigg, Julian, 2021. “#FOCUSRACIALJUSTICE: A Foreigner In His Own Land: Seven Months In Ice Detention As A U.S. Citizen.” 

(6) Bernstein, Hamutal, Dulce Gonzalez, Michael Karpman, and Stephen Zuckerman. 2019 a. “Adults in Immigrant Families Report Avoiding Routine Activities Because of Immigration Concerns." Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

(7) Yi, Karen. 2021. Gothamist.com ‘Whole Generations Of Fathers’ Lost As COVID-19 Kills Young Latino Men In NJ.” 

(8) State of New Jersey. 2019. Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2018-6 V2.0.

(9) New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. 2020 Immigrant Trust Directive Annual Reporting Form.