Sunday, March 23, 2008

Questions Continue About NJ AG Directive on Immigration

Kareem Fahim of the New York Times wrote an article on March 23, 2008 titled "Immigration Referrals by Police Draw Scrutiny" in which he recounts ongoing questions about New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram's directive in August 2007 that ordered local police to question people arrested for certain types of crime if there is a reason to believe the person arrested may be undocumented. The certain types of crime include, strangely, indictable offenses and driving while intoxicated (even if the DWI charge is a misdemeanor).

Kareem Fahim reports that in the last seven months, referrals to ICE have nearly doubled (8,874 from September to February as opposed to 4,589 for the same period the previous year). Advocates, though, complain that some people may have been unfairly referred due to overzealous enforcement of confusion about how to implement the directive. And that as a result, immigrants' relationships with police are chilled.

Advocates complain that the directive is being violated by, for example, local police asking about immigration status during routine traffic stops and during witness interviews. This happens especially in rural areas and NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram has said that should not happen.

NJ AG Milgram says only two credible complaints have come to her office but advocates point out that immigrants are not likely to lodge complaints with the NJ AG. The NJ AG is not releasing statistics about the referrals for another five months. Interviews show that the directive is not being used evenly across New Jersey.

Francisco Escobar has legal immigration status and went to the West Deptford, NJ police office to discuss his nephew. The local police, though, asked a series of questions about his immigration status, identity, and address. That would seem to violated the AG's directive.

Manuel Guzman said that during a traffic stop in South Harrison, NJ, the police asked for identification of his passenger and arrested, though ultimately released without even a traffic ticket. The local police told the reporter that the arrest was because the police officer suspected the passenger might have been someone else they were looking for.

Very few police stations have given training on how to apply the directive. The Newark Police department started a comprehensive training program after a Newark police officer violated the directive in September 2007 by asking two people who were reporting a crime about their immigration status.

It's not clear what type of monitoring and training an AG should normally provide and share with the public when issuing new, wide-ranging directives. But the clear implication from the article is that the NJ AG might not be providing enough monitoring and training (if any) and certainly is not sharing enough with the public.

Before the NJ AG Directive, local NJ police reported a crime victim and witness to ICE for deportation, probably violating what the NJ AG recognizes is the victim's rights under the New Jersey Constitution. ICE has continued to pursue deportation and refuses to stop the case, even after the NJ AG's directive. There is no explanation of how the NJ AG will address when police mistakenly report victims to ICE -- without basic protections for crime victims, there is a danger that victims will be afraid to report crimes because if someone slips up and tells ICE, hearing someone say "oops" would be little comfort to a crime victim being deported after reporting a crime to police.

When victims are afraid to report crimes to police, everyone's safety is threatened.


Post a Comment

<< Home