Federal Government Joins Lawsuits against New Jersey Sanctuary Directive
By David Jaroslav |FAIR Take| January 2020
Growing opposition to sanctuary policies in New Jersey got a significant boost in January as the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) joined two lawsuits by Garden State counties and officials against the state’s attorney general (AG), Gurbir Grewal, challenging his dangerous sanctuary directive.
Grewal was appointed by Governor Phil Murphy (D), who is an outspoken supporter of sanctuary policies and of granting illegal aliens as many benefits and privileges as possible. Although it was Grewal who officially issued the sanctuary directive in November 2018, many observers reasonably assume it was Murphy who was actually the driving force behind it. The directive bans almost all cooperation and information-sharing by state and local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities.
Ocean County sued Grewal on September 18, 2019, asking a federal court for an injunction to block the sanctuary directive from taking effect. Cape May County, together with its sheriff, Robert Nolan (R), filed a similar suit on October 15. The two lawsuits were consolidated, to be heard together as one case, on November 7.
On January 24, 2020, DOJ filed a “Statement of Interest” in the consolidated case, siding with the counties and Sheriff Nolan to oppose the sanctuary directive. DOJ’s statement argues that:
- the directive is “conflict-preempted” by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);
- the directive is expressly preempted by several specific federal statutes, namely sections 1226, 1231, 1373 and 1644 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code;
- the directive discriminates against the federal government, which violates the doctrine of “intergovernmental immunity;” and
- federal preemption of the directive does not violate the Tenth Amendment.
AG Grewal reacted to DOJ’s filing by saying he was “deeply disappointed” that the federal government had “suddenly chosen to challenge [the directive] over a year after it was issued,” and vowing to respond in court shortly.
By contrast, Sussex County, New Jersey Sheriff Michael Strada (R), who has vowed to defy the sanctuary directive and whose county overwhelmingly passed a ballot question opposing the directive in November, “applauded” DOJ for getting involved “and challenging the unconstitutional sanctuary state policies of Governor Murphy and his state Attorney General. Their sanctuary polices endanger our communities and render local law enforcement unable to conduct their sworn duty to protect the citizens of New Jersey without fear of official retaliation[.]”
And at a heavily-attended rally in Wildwood, New Jersey on January 28, President Trump railed against sanctuary policies, saying they result in “dangerous predators being set free,” and adding that “[n]o American should ever be hurt, harmed or killed because left-wing politicians … decided to shield and shelter criminals.”
FAIR will continue to closely monitor developments in New Jersey as opposition grows to sanctuary policies.