Justice Department sues N.J. over law enforcement directive on immigrants

Feb 11, 2020

The Trump administration has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey over a state policy that limits law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with federal immigration officials.

In a complaint filed Monday, Justice Department prosecutors said the so-called “Immigrant Trust Directive” violates the U.S. Constitution and should be invalidated.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal called the lawsuit an "election year stunt." (Office of the Attorney General/Tim Larsen)

“Today’s lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice, seeks to restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments,” said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

The lawsuit revolves around a directive issued by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in 2018, which forbade state and local police from partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce civil immigration law.

It was an attempt to build trust with immigrant communities on edge over President Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement efforts and to encourage immigrant residents to cooperate with state and local police.

But the Justice Department now says it sees the directive differently.

The lawsuit alleges that two parts of the directive — that block local law enforcement agencies from sharing information with ICE and require notification to wanted immigrants — violate the Constitution by undermining federal law enforcement efforts.

Cape May and Ocean Counties have already tried to overturn the directive in a separate lawsuit. The Justice Department recently filed papers siding with those counties.

In a tweet Monday evening, Attorney General Grewal said he was disappointed but not surprised by the lawsuit, which he called an “election year stunt.”