New Jersey advocates for immigrants’ rights came together in a virtual panel to call for lawmakers to pass the Values Act (S512/A1986), legislation that aims to end New Jersey’s participation in the federal detention and deportation machine. View the event recording here.
The ACLU-NJ and advocates from New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, Make the Road New Jersey, Wind of the Spirit, and Faith in New Jersey shared expertise and told personal stories from people whose lives have been destroyed when local law enforcement and other public agencies collaborate with harsh immigration enforcement.
“No one deserves to live with the constant fear that normal interactions with government agencies or help from local government could lead to the personal tragedies of family separation and deportation. The Values Act gets us closer to a reality where people can live their lives freely and contribute all they have to offer, with the rights and dignity they deserve,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia.
The Values Act would more strictly divide the role of local and state government agencies in New Jersey from the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and it would bar law enforcement agencies from working with ICE without a judicial warrant from a state or federal judge, not including immigration judges.
“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. It is imperative for State government to strengthen a trust-based relationship with the immigrant community and feelings of safety at public agencies and other public spaces. Passing the Values Act is essential to these goals, as it strengthens existing protections in New Jersey with a sharp focus on racial justice, shared belonging, and avoiding family separations,” said Wind of the Spirit Organizer Helen Zamora-Bustos.
Across the country and in New Jersey, state and local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration authorities has led to family separation, detention, and deportation.
“In understanding that the well-being of each New Jerseyan is tied to its neighbor, the government has tried to provide access to vaccinations, rapid testing, rental assistance, and resources to ensure no one goes hungry during the pandemic. However, these programs cannot truly succeed as many of our loved ones choose to forgo them uncertain as to whether this interaction with government agencies will flag them for deportation and tear their families apart. The Values Act ensures that we live into our values to care for each other by separating New Jersey state and local agencies from the cruel agenda of ICE, thus helping families feel comfortable seeking the support they need,” said Faith in New Jersey Executive Director Charlene Walker.
New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive, issued in 2018 by the Office of the Attorney General, takes an important step in separating the roles of local and state law enforcement from federal immigration authorities. The Values Act would build upon the directive by strengthening its protections and codifying them into statute permanently, as well as extending similar protections to state and local public agencies in New Jersey. It would eliminate carveouts that have led to racial disparities in enforcement and clarify the separate functions of local and state government from ICE.
“For too long, predatory federal immigration authorities have relied on New Jersey's own resources to further their agenda. In a state where our motto is 'Liberty and Opportunity,' the Values Act sends a strong message: every New Jerseyan deserves to exercise their rights and seek the services they're entitled to without fear of deportation,” said New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice Executive Director Amy Torres.
The Values Act would protect immigrant communities by:
- Prohibiting state and local law enforcement from voluntarily collaborating with federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration law
- Preventing local resources intended to support community priorities from being used in federal immigration enforcement
- Eliminating carve-outs in the Immigrant Trust Directive that exclude immigrants entangled in the criminal legal system, and that disproportionately harm Black and brown New Jerseyans due to racial disparities in policing and prosecution
- Protecting personal information by limiting the data public agencies can collect
- Requiring model policies for public schools, health care facilities, libraries, and shelters to ensure that people feel safer seeking public services
“New Jersey government and law enforcement should not be expending community resources in support of federal immigration enforcement, and we need to pass the Values Act to make that explicitly clear. It’s not the job of local officials to do the bidding of federal immigration enforcement, and the more defined that separation is, the safer we all are,” said Make the Road New Jersey Legal Director Lauren Herman.