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Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck with Gov. Phil Murphy in July 2021. (Photo: Office of the Governor).

N.J. Immigrant Trust Directive upheld by federal appeals court

Bruck says order ‘helped us to foster trust between New Jersey’s police officers and the state’s historically marginalized communities’

By David Wildstein, August 09 2021 12:55 pm

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive that prevents law enforcement from using legal status as a cudgel in unrelated investigations.

The directive came during the first year of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration after finding that residents were less likely to report a crime if they feared the responding officer would report them to immigration officials.

“For three years, the Immigrant Trust Directive has helped us to foster trust between New Jersey’s police officers and the state’s historically marginalized communities by drawing a clear, bright line between the work of state law enforcement officers and federal civil immigration officers,” said acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck on Monday.

The order was challenged by the Ocean County Board of Commissioners and Cape May Sheriff Robert Nolan, who claimed that that it violated the anticommandeering doctrine that prohibits the federal government to passing or not passing certain laws.  U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson sided with the state.

“For a federal law to preempt state law—regardless of the type of preemption claimed—it must satisfy two requirements,” the appellate court said in its ruling.  “First, the federal law ‘must represent the exercise of a power conferred on Congress by the Constitution.’ Second, because the Constitution ‘confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not States,’ … the federal law “must be best read as one that regulates private actors.”

“Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed that our approach is lawful,” Bruck said.  “I hope this brings an end to this years-long litigation, as we continue doing the hard work of promoting good policing policy. New Jersey residents should never be afraid that interacting with our cops as victims and witnesses will lead to their deportation.”

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