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New Jersey Republicans seek to end ‘sanctuary’ state policy

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(The Center Square) — A group of New Jersey Republican lawmakers have filed a proposal to repeal all the state’s “sanctuary” state policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration crackdowns.

The proposal calls for a repeal of the state Attorney General’s 2018 directive that restricts local law enforcement officials from cooperating with agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they are seeking individuals suspected of entering the country illegally.

Republicans behind the proposal say the AG’s directive “handcuffs law enforcement” and “undermines public safety placing citizens at risk by creating a separate class of people who are permitted to flagrantly break the law and undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

“New Jersey’s sanctuary state policies serve only to exacerbate this crisis by not only offering a safe haven to persons who entered the country illegally but rewarding them with taxpayer-funded benefits,” the GOP lawmakers said in a statement. “This is a slap in the face to every law-abiding, taxpaying citizen who is fed up with federal and state immigration policies that are failing our nation.”

New Jersey officials have refuted claims that the state offers sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Under the AG’s directive, New Jersey law enforcement officers are prohibited from questioning or detaining a person because they simply believe that the individual may be living in the U.S. illegally. The rules prohibit police officers from asking a suspect about their immigration status, except when it is part of a criminal investigation.

The Republican push to repeal the AG’s directive comes as busloads of migrants from Texas and other border states have been dropped off in New Jersey to get around New York City’s executive order limiting drop-off times.

Nationally, more than 200 local and state governments have adopted policies limiting cooperation with federal requests to detain individuals for possible deportation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Immigrant advocates and some Democrats say requiring local police to cooperate with federal immigration agents makes communities less safe because it dissuades people from reporting crime for fear of deportation.

Critics say sanctuaries hinder criminal and terrorist investigations and argue that local police should be working with federal authorities to enforce the law amid a historic surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Illegal immigration has become a central issue in the presidential election with Republican Donald Trump pledging to conduct mass deportations if elected in November. During his presidency, Trump threatened to punish sanctuary states by withholding federal funding, but the effort was blocked by a series of federal court challenges.

New Jersey Republicans said they know the proposal to repeal the sanctuary state directive faces an “uphill battle” in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which has been reluctant to change the policy.

“Regardless, this is a serious issue with national implications that needs to be debated by the State Legislature if we want to be serious about public safety and how state tax dollars are being spent,” the lawmakers said. “We will also continue to educate the public and our colleagues in the legislature on the dangers of perpetuating this lawless policy.”

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