New Jersey Sheriff Sues State Over Sanctuary Directive
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | October 2019
The battle against sanctuary policies in New Jersey continues to grow. A sheriff and a second county have jointly filed a lawsuit against Attorney General (AG) Gurbir Grewal to block enforcement of his sanctuary directive.
AG Grewal first issued the sanctuary directive in November 2018 and it went into effect in March 2018. The directive prohibited localities from entering into new 287(g) agreements but allowed existing 287(g) agreements to remain in effect for the remainder of the agreement. However, in order to renew the 287(g) agreements, the localities must submit justification for the agreement and obtain state approval.
Both the Cape May and Monmouth county sheriffs renewed their agreements shortly before the directive took effect. In response to their actions, AG Grewal issued a revised directive on September 27 forbidding any 287(g) agreements in the state at all. He also sent a letter to those two sheriffs telling them to “wind down” their participation in 287(g).
On October 15, Sheriff Nolan and the five-member Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders sued Grewal. Their suit states the AG’s directive is unlawful and they are asking the federal court to block its enforcement. Ocean County already filed a similar suit back on September 18. They argue:
- The directive violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The directive “interferes with federal enforcement priorities in an area committed to the discretion of the United States, and otherwise impedes the accomplishment and execution of federal law and foreign policy”
- The directive is preempted by federal law. The lawsuit specifically notes two federal statutes, Title 8 U.S. Code § 1373 and § 1644, that forbid state and local government entities from prohibiting or restricting communication with immigration authorities
- The AG’s directive is a rule as defined by the New Jersey Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The directive “intentionally interfered” with the county’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was implemented without following the requirements of the APA
Sheriff Nolan described the sanctuary directive as “absurd madness,” noting that he’d “never before been asked not to cooperate with another law enforcement agency, … not one time in the 35 years I have been working in law enforcement.”
Cape May Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton (R) said the lawsuit “will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” proclaiming that “[t]he 287(g) program protects Cape May County residents. “As freeholder director, I will do what is in the best interests of our residents to protect them, and I’m proud to work with Sheriff Nolan on this matter. We believe the AG does not have the authority to force us to violate our oath of office to comply with the laws of the United States[.]”
Representing Sheriff Nolan, attorney Mike Testa added “[t]his Sanctuary State directive and Phil Murphy’s radical liberal agenda are a direct threat to public safety[.]” Testa is also currently the Republican nominee for a New Jersey Senate special election in November, in a district that includes parts of Cape May County. Testa’s Democratic opponent in that race, Senator Robert Andrzejczak, has also publicly sided with Nolan, saying “[o]ur law enforcement agents make our community safe, and they have to be allowed to do their job. I want the Cape May sheriff to know we stand with him and oppose any effort by the AG to stop him from enforcing the law[.]”
An editorial in the Asbury Park Press asked “what sense does it make for the state’s top law enforcement official to tie the hands of those entrusted with enforcing the law?” The state’s third most widely circulated newspaper called for the courts to “nullify the directive” and “take the handcuffs off law enforcement.”
Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence stated in a press conference that Grewal’s directive has “put the citizens of New Jersey at greater risk.”
Click here to read the Cape May County lawsuit against New Jersey’s sanctuary directive.