Following today’s introduction of the Values Act, A6222, members of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice are urging lawmakers to support the bill to create a more fair, more welcoming New Jersey. The Values Act prioritizes racial justice by strengthening the separation between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement and lays the groundwork for similar protections for people who interact with other state and local agencies. The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Raj Mukherji.
Currently, New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive prevents state and local law enforcement from using their resources for federal immigration enforcement. However, because the directive was issued by the New Jersey Attorney General, it could be withdrawn or changed in the future at any time, to the detriment of immigrant families across the state.
The Values Act will strengthen and codify the protections in the Immigrant Trust Directive while implementing important racial justice measures:
- Prohibits state and local law enforcement from voluntarily collaborating with federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration law
- Prevents local resources intended to support community priorities from being used in federal immigration enforcement
- Eliminates carve-outs in the Immigrant Trust Directive that exclude immigrants entangled in the criminal legal system, and disproportionately harm Black and brown New Jerseyans due to racial disparities in policing and prosecution
- Protects personal information by limiting the data that public agencies – including hospital districts and public schools – can collect
- Requires model policies for public schools, health care facilities, libraries, and shelters, to ensure that people feel safer seeking public services
- Establishes stronger reporting requirements for law enforcement
The comprehensive protections afforded by the Values Act are critical for empowering New Jerseyans to live their lives without fear that routine interactions with law enforcement could lead to permanent separation from their loved ones through immigration detention and deportation. Increasing trust in public agencies allows all people, regardless of immigration status, to seek public services that are essential to health, education, and well-being.
Members of the New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice issued the following statements:
“Just this summer, New Jersey made history by banning ICE detention and putting every existing site on a path to closure. That work has wrested a major piece away from ICE’s national chessboard and is a win for immigrant communities here and across the nation. But we aren’t done yet. Despite banning detention, ending 287g agreements, and expanding legal services, ICE still takes advantage of carveouts and loopholes that allow continued cooperation with law enforcement or continued access to personal data. That ends with the Values Act. We are proud that Assembly Member Mukherji, hailing from one of the most diverse and immigrant-rich corridors of our state, is leading this effort to affirm that our communities deserve to live without fear of predatory immigration enforcement,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
“As one of the most diverse states in the nation, New Jersey must continue moving toward a future that is fair and welcoming for all – passing the Values Act is essential to that goal as it prioritizes racial justice while strengthening existing protections for immigrant New Jerseyans. We’re grateful to Assemblymember Mukherji for his dedication to creating a more just New Jersey, and we urge lawmakers to pass the bill as soon as possible,” said Ami Kachalia, Campaign Strategist for the ACLU of New Jersey.
“AFSC has seen firsthand the harm that detention and deportation cause to immigrant community members and their families. New Jersey’s local law enforcement agencies should never play a role in immigration enforcement which can lead to family separation and broken communities. The Values Act will help New Jersey take this important stand in supporting immigrants to stay with their families and continue to contribute in New Jersey. The Values Act does not only help keep families together, but reduce racism and xenophobia immigrants often experience,” said Chia-Chia Wang, Organizing and Advocacy Director for the American Friends Service Committee.
“Our Immigrant community, especially the undocumented who are parents, students, and hard workers, tend to be the scapegoats of anything that goes wrong in the state or country. Bias and prejudice have caused the immigrant community to be persecuted and betrayed by those who should be protecting us. The Values Act will bring an end to this. It will permanently end the possibility for Law enforcement and state agencies to voluntarily cooperate with ICE which has caused family separation, fear, and oppression. It will increase the trust of the immigrant community, public safety, and by default promote safe communities,” said Gloria E. Blanco, Admin and Advocacy at Wind of the Spirit.
“Whether you were born in New Jersey or are a newcomer you deserve feeling safe in your community so you may build joyful memories with your family. In the media we have certain politicians pointing the finger for our lack of safety, at Black people, immigrants, and poor families. New Jerseyans know the truth. So, we are uniting to support the Values Act because it helps build safer communities for all of us. It ensures funds remain allocated to our community priorities, it reduces law enforcement interactions, and makes it more likely that those in need will access public services to remain safe. Thank you, Assemblymember Mukherji for putting forward a bill that helps us to build the beloved community for all of our families. Faith in New Jersey urges lawmakers to expedite the passage of this bill,” said Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey.
“Too often, immigrant communities are afraid to seek out crucial services for fear that their data may end up in the hands of ICE. The Values Act ensures that no one should have their trust in health, education, or community programs undermined simply because our state privacy protections weren’t strong enough,” said Lauren Herman, Legal Director of Make the Road New Jersey.
“Too many New Jerseyans are afraid of speaking out against predatory landlords, wage theft, or abusive partners because interaction with law enforcement may put them on ICE’s radar. The Values Act puts protections in place to ensure that New Jersey no longer does the bidding of federal immigration enforcement, working toward a Garden State that is a fair and welcoming place for everyone who calls it home,” said Kevin Brown, NJ State Director and Executive Vice President at SEIU 32BJ.
“New Jersey is strongest when all residents feel safe in their communities. By protecting residents from cruel immigration enforcement practices that restrict access to resources, services, and opportunities, the Values Act represents a critical step toward a more just and equitable New Jersey. We applaud Assemblyman Mukherji for his leadership on this critical legislation and encourage lawmakers to pass it swiftly,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective.
“Como hispanos que somos, pedimos que ya no hagan más deportaciones injustamente. Todos tenemos derecho a ser libres. This act will help Latinos like us who have been asking for an end to unjust deportations. We all have the right to be free,” said Perla Solares, Community Leader with Unidad Accion Latina.
“The Values Act will help ensure that local police are not spending their time and resources acting as federal immigration enforcement officers. Families will be able to breathe easier knowing that not every conversation with law enforcement is actually an encounter with ICE,” said Ellen Whitt, Founding Member of the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War.
“As people of faith, Unitarian Universalists who have come together as UU FaithAction New Jersey, speak out in support of the Values Act. This vital legislation will protect all people in New Jersey and provide them with the assurance they need to trust local police to help them in time of need. Unitarian Universalists work to confront injustice and build more compassion in our lives in New Jersey, and this bill goes a long way toward making that goal real for the thousands of immigrants with whom we live and work,” said Charles Loflin, Executive Director of Unitarian Universalist FaithAction New Jersey.