AG Racine Leads 15-State Coalition Backing State Efforts Limiting Local Resources For Federal Immigration Crackdowns

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a group of 15 Attorneys General in defending a New Jersey directive that limits when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The Trump administration is trying 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.

“Communities are safer when local law enforcement is able to build and maintain trust with residents,” said AG Racine. “If undocumented immigrants fear that police will turn them or their family over to immigration authorities, they are far less likely to report crimes or seek help when they are victims. Our coalition of Attorneys General argues that New Jersey and other states have the authority and responsibility to enact laws that enhance public safety and protect all residents.”

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 at:  

OAG’s Continued Efforts to Protect Immigrants
This is OAG’s latest effort to protect established federal immigration policy, keep longtime District residents from losing their protected status, and advocate for immigrants in the District and nationwide. AG Racine also led a multistate coalition in 2018 supporting California’s defense of S.B. 54, a law similar to New Jersey’s directive. The Trump administration raised similar challenges to that law as they do against New Jersey’s directive and lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Last week, the Supreme Court denied the federal government’s cert petition, leaving the Ninth Circuit’s decision intact.

This year, AG Racine led multistate coalitions opposing Trump administration efforts to limit asylum protections and double asylum seekers’ wait to legally work. In 2019, the Attorney General led a multistate amicus brief opposing the illegal termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian born residents, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block DHS’s Public Charge rule from taking effect, and led a multistate amicus brief challenging the Trump administration’s changes to asylum standards in Grace v. Barr. He also joined with other Attorneys General to take action against the Trump administration to protect public safety funding for “sanctuary” citiesprevent attempts to close the Southern border to asylum seekersblock immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grantsstop a cruel family separation policyfight for hard-working “DREAMers” to stay in the United States; and to oppose the “Muslim travel ban.”