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Attorney General William Tong

06/30/2020

Attorney General Tong Defends States' Rights to Set Public Safety Priorities

Attorneys General Argue States Have Authority to Enact Laws That Protect Public Safety Regardless of Residents’ Immigration Status

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong joined a group of 15 attorneys general defending a New Jersey directive that limits when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The Trump Administration is seeking to block a 2018 directive issued by the New Jersey Attorney General that bars local law enforcement officers from sharing certain information about detainees with immigration authorities or participating in federal immigration enforcement in most cases. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the coalition argues that the court should uphold New Jersey’s directive because states have the responsibility and authority to protect public safety, regulate law enforcement, and decide how to use their limited resources. The New Jersey directive shares the same purpose as Connecticut’s TRUST Act.

“States will not be bullied or threatened into using our police as agents of Trump’s deportation force. States have broad legal authority to protect public safety and to implement policies and priorities that meet our local needs and conditions. We will defend Connecticut’s prerogative to do so, as well as that of our sister states,” said Attorney General Tong. “Forcing local law enforcement to become ICE-like agents is a waste of scarce local resources, and jeopardizes public safety by deterring immigrants from reporting crimes and cooperating with law enforcement.”

The District of Columbia and partner states filed an amicus brief today in United States v. New Jersey. The Trump administration filed this lawsuit as part of its crackdown on both legal and unauthorized immigration. It seeks to strike down New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2018-6, which was issued to promote public safety, protect immigrant communities, and prevent the Trump administration from using local law enforcement to assist with efforts to increase deportations. The directive prohibits local law enforcement from transferring individuals to federal immigration authorities without a judicial warrant unless that person has committed a serious crime. It also prevents local law enforcement from providing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the release date of any detainee who has not been convicted of a serious crime, or sharing any individual’s non-public information, including their home or work address, with immigration authorities.

In this amicus brief, the states collectively argue that New Jersey’s directive should be upheld because:

States have broad authority to protect public safety: The coalition argues that states have primary responsibility for protecting public safety within their borders and have broad authority to enact legislation for the public good. This responsibility includes a duty to implement policies that best serve local conditions and policy preferences, and a duty to determine how best to use limited local resources. States like New Jersey have reasonably exercised their power to disentangle local law enforcement from federal immigration enforcement based on studies, expert analysis, and anecdotal evidence that indicate such efforts can build community trust and promote public health and safety.

The directive does not interfere with the enforcement of federal immigration law: The states argue that declining to use state and local resources to actively participate in federal civil immigration enforcement does not create an obstacle to federal immigration enforcement.

It is unconstitutional for the federal government to commandeer state resources: The basic principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution mean that the federal government cannot directly order states to use their resources to enforce federal laws.

AG Racine is leading today’s friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by state Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the brief is available here.


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