Cape May County Sheriff’s Office Files Lawsuit Against NJ AG Over Directive Blocking Cooperation with ICE

CAPE MAY, N.J. — Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan and the County of Cape May government has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against the Attorney General of New Jersey over the 287(g) agreement being terminated. In Nov. 2018, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued Directive 2018-6, known as the Immigration Trust Directive, which prohibits local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as voluntarily participating in the 287(g) program.

The 287(g) Program allows ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to permit designated officers to perform limited immigration law functions. The agreement that Sheriff Nolan had with ICE pertained only to individuals who entered the Cape May County Jail. The Directive puts the public safety of Cape May County at risk by selectively restricting the Sheriff’s Communication and cooperation with federal immigration authorities. “We tried to work with the Attorney General’s office to show the State why this Program is so important,” said Nolan in a press release. “We have been left with no other option than to take this matter to court. I thank so many of the residents of Cape May County who have voiced their support to me.”

According to a press release from the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the lawsuit challenges the Attorney General’s authority to preempt the exclusive governance of the federal government with regard to immigration. It challenges, “the Directive’s impermissible interference with Nolan’s voluntary communication and cooperation with federal immigration officials. Further, it challenges the validity of the Directive as it was issued without due process and impermissibly interferes with a legal contract entered by the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security.”

In a press release, Cape May County Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton said, “Since the issues with the Attorney General’s Office began, I have pledged my support to Sheriff Nolan. […] We plan to take this issue as far as we can legally to ensure that Cape May County residents are protected.”

An overview of the 287(g) Program on explains that its purpose is, “[to enhance] the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove aliens who are amenable to removal from the United States.”

The program has been around for over 20 years, since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g) to the Immigration and Nationality Act. It authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies — agreements that permit designated officers to “perform limited immigration law enforcement functions.” Under such agreements, local law enforcement officers are required to receive special training and to function under the supervision of ICE officers when carrying out actions specifically permitted under the agreement.

As of July 2019, ICE has 287(g) “jail enforcement model” agreements with 79 law enforcement agencies in 21 states. Additionally, they also have 287(g) “warrant service officer model” agreements with 10 law enforcement agencies in the state of Florida. Only two New Jersey law enforcement agencies have signed a Memorandum of Agreement with ICE to create 287(g) programs: Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, and Cape May County Sheriff’s Office. Former Cape May County Sheriff Gary G. Schaffer signed the MOA to begin the agreement back in April, 2017.

A section on ICE’s website lists “287(g) Successes.” The site says, “In fiscal year (FY) 2018, the 287(g) Program encountered approximately 700 aliens convicted for assault, 670 convicted for dangerous drugs, 150 convicted for sex offenses/assaults, 150 convicted for obstructing police, 125 convicted for weapon offenses, and 13 convicted for homicide.”

Under “Recent Arrests,” it lists three examples of the program affecting local law enforcement agencies recently. One from South Carolina, two from New Jersey. Regarding the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, it says, “On May 4, 2019, a Designated Immigration Officer from the Cape May County, NJ Sheriff’s Office 287(g) Program encountered a citizen of Jamaica charged with domestic violence-simple assault knowingly causing bodily injury and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. The subject was admitted to the United States on April 19, 2008 as a nonimmigrant with authorization to remain in the United States for a period not to exceed 180 days. The subject failed to depart the United States as required. The Cape May County 287(g) Program placed an immigration detainer, I-247A, and warrant on the subject who will be served with a Notice to Appear.”

Follow Local News will follow the lawsuit as it develops.