A project of the Center for Community Change

Jersey needs some oversight

As some of you may have heard, Anne Millgram, the New Jersey Attorney General issued a directive to local police officers last week, indicating that all police officers must notify immigratio officials of undocumented individuals arrested “in connection” with an indictable crime.

What are the upsides to a directive like this?

Well, it is important to highlight that the directive includes provisions to protect witnesses and victims from having the police. Other instructions to local police officers have not included this caveat. Also, the directive sets a criminal threshold for the questioning of immigration status. This isn’t a blank check. Technically- only those with indictable offenses will be referred to immigration status. While some advocates may prefer that no one have their immigration status questioned, the criminal threshold at least suggests (in theory) that police cannot use this directive for willynilly racial profiling.

The problems?

There is a cavernous gulch between written statement and implementation. Attorney General Millgram can hide behind protective clauses and criminal thresholds to defend this directive, but for some local police departments this directive may only heighten anti-immigrant procedures or actions. We’ve seen police departments across the country sending out proposals such as this for the media, but the reality is far from the press release.

Without adequate supervision, oversight, and accountability mechanisms, a directive like this could further drive immigrant communities from the police, thereby marginalizing victims (often women and children) and making the police’s job actually more difficult.

Our communities must demand that our local and state police departments have third party oversight of human rights cases. We must demand that all deaths, injuries, or racial profiling cases be investigated and those reports released to the public. We must also demand that indivduals not be sent to ICE until after indictment, to avoid the lure of using this directive for racial profiling or targeting of immigrant communities. Ant, we must call for  the highest level of professionalism and respect for human lives from our local law enforcement. This is something that can’t be achieved through a directive like this- let’s hope that other municipalities will learn.

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