ACLU-NJ Welcomes Immigration Relief, if not Reform

Welcome Relief for Immigrant Families, but Comprehensive Reform Still Required

NEWARK -- President Obama's historic announcement on immigration will keep together tens of thousands of families in New Jersey and provide substantial relief to undocumented immigrants who face a constant threat of deportation.

“The ACLU of New Jersey strongly supports the President’s actions on immigration reform. Our broken immigration system, which has festered for decades and created a nation where millions live in the shadows, has led to a civil and human rights crisis. Thanks to President Obama, potentially hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents will be able to put the fear of deportation behind them, for now,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer said. “However, the President's actions are not a substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform that our country has needed for so long.”

Along with the President's statement last night, a series of memoranda detailed the exact policy changes outlined in the remarks. Some of these changes, especially to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies, will directly affect the relationship between state and local law enforcement in New Jersey.

While the embattled Secure Communities Program, which fueled the rise of thousands of immigration detainer requests by ICE to state and local jails, will be dismantled, it will be replaced by the Priorities Enforcement Program (PEP). The onerous requirement that local jails share all fingerprints of arrestees with ICE will continue under the new program, but rather than asking local jails to detain those suspected of civil immigration offenses, ICE is now asking local jails to notify them upon release of such a person. The new program continues the use of detainer requests in unspecified “special circumstances.”

"The revisions are a welcome validation of years of hard work by the ACLU, together with immigrant communities and local policymakers and law enforcement leaders, to show that ICE’s practices damaged public safety, fostered distrust between immigrant communities and police, and were a civil rights disaster,” ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin said.

However, other details of the new ICE practices remain unclear, as does the real effect of the program revisions.

“As long as local law enforcement in New Jersey remains involved in facilitating the deportation of New Jersey families, whether honoring warrantless detainer requests or notifying ICE of inmates' release, distrust between immigrant communities and police will persist and public safety will continue to suffer,” ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alex Shalom said.

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