Immigration Making Headlines in South Jersey, Ocean County

State Policies Have Legislators, Freeholders on Edge
By Rick Mellerup | Oct 02, 2019

Ocean County — TO WORD

Viewers of Fox News are familiar with stories about undocumented immigrants who had been charged with serious crimes being released from jail and not turned over, as requested, to federal immigration authorities in sanctuary states and cities. Now that situation has arisen in South Jersey, and the 9th District legislative team of Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove are not happy about it.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Luciano Trejo-Dominguez (some media outlets have spelled his name Dominguez-Trejo and have reported his age as either 28 or 33) had been arrested by the Vineland Police Department on Aug. 12 and charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault on a victim 13-15 years old, criminal restraint, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. On Aug. 13, ICE’s Pacific Enforcement Response Center lodged a detainer on Trejo-Dominguez, and the Mount Laurel ICE office did the same the next day.

A detainer means ICE should be notified before a subject prisoner is released. Trejo-Dominguez, who was born in Mexico and who had worked in Bridgeton as a cook, was released from the Cumberland County Jail on Aug. 23. ICE wasn’t notified of his upcoming release; he still remains at large.

Cumberland County authorities have argued that ICE may have lodged detainer notices on Aug. 13 and 14, but they weren’t received by Cumberland County jailers until after Trejo-Dominguez had been released.

Connors, Rumpf and Gove say they’re continuing to lead the fight against New Jersey being turned into a sanctuary state. They issued a statement after the Trejo-Dominguez story hit newspapers and the airwaves.

“The politics of open borders and establishing ‘sanctuary’ for those who break our laws continue to tie the hands of law enforcement officials to the detriment of public safety while at the same time undermining the rule of law, which is still cherished by many Americans.

“Regardless of the violent crimes these individuals are suspected of, they should not have been in the country in the first place. When are sanctuary state supporters going to wake up to the reality and severity of the situation and start respecting the rights of legal citizens?

“We can’t imagine the frustration of law enforcement officials who, while putting their lives (on the line) to protect us from dangerous persons, are being hindered in carrying out their very serious responsibilities by a bumbling bureaucracy that is failing us all.

“This latest episode has further cemented our Delegation’s vehement opposition to sanctuary state policies, which includes giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.”

Immigration enforcement, or lack of it, in New Jersey has been hitting headlines for several weeks.

On Sept. 26, following a week-long action targeting public safety threats, ICE announced it had arrested 54 individuals in New Jersey who were released from local law enforcement custody into the community instead of being transferred to ICE for deportation. The 54 individuals came from 12 countries, including Mexico (21), Jamaica (1), Ecuador (2), Honduras (4), Dominican Republic (3), El Salvador (9), Guatemala (3), Guyana (1), Brazil (7), Costa Rica (1), Georgia (1) and Pakistan (1).

On Sept. 18, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Trenton that challenged New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal’s “Immigrant Trust Directive.” That directive, released last November, established a policy that carries the weight of law in New Jersey. It says state, county and local law enforcement officials may not stop, search or detain immigrants at the request of ICE unless they are involved with serious or violent crimes or are facing final deportation orders. The directive would hopefully improve trust between immigrants and law enforcement officers in the state but has upset the freeholders because it doesn’t appear to represent the wishes of the majority of Ocean County residents. Over 65 percent of voters in Ocean County in 2016 delivered more votes for Donald Trump than any other county in New Jersey.

There are three counts in the 13-page lawsuit. The first argues that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow states to ignore or frustrate federal laws and regulations. The second says Grewal has gone too far in regulating county and local governments that, traditionally, have maintained many powers in the state thanks to the Home Rule Doctrine that can be found in the New Jersey Constitution of 1947. The third maintains the attorney general doesn’t have the power to tell a county jail how it shares information with other law enforcement agencies.

The Ocean County Jail is the place where Grewal’s doctrine has had the biggest effect in the county. According to statistics supporting the suit, the Ocean County Department of Corrections reported that 17.7 percent of foreign-born inmates at the Ocean County Jail had been subject to ICE detainers upon their release from Jan. 1, 1017 through July 31, 2019. But jail employees can no longer alert ICE of many prisoners’ upcoming release due to Grewal’s doctrine.

Rick Mellerup

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