New Jersey LEA alien screening initiative boosts criminal alien removals

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 8, 2008

Since an August 2007 order from New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, which requires NJ local law enforcement agencies to check the immigration status of everyone arrested and report illegal aliens to ICE, the number of criminal aliens in the state who have been identified for removal has dramatically increased. Over the last year NJ LEAS referred twice as many arrested aliens to ICE, resulting in nine times as many detainers on alien inmates, and three times as many arrestees slapped with immigration charges. The NJ policy is a good model for other states -- besides boosting the number of removals, it prevents the unwitting release of dangerous or wanted crimnal aliens back into the community, ensures state-wide uniformity for how criminal aliens are handled, and provides political cover for those LEA executives who may hesitate to wade into a politically sensitive issue.

The order requires local LEAs to ask everyone arrested for “any indictable crime” or drunk driving about their citizenship and immigration status, and to report to ICE those likely to be illegally present. Officers may also inquire about immigration status in other situations, except they may not question crime victims, witnesses or others seeking police assistance about their status.

Milgram’s order was issued in August, 2007, shortly after illegal alien and possible MS-13 associate Jose Carranza was arrested for the widely publicized triple murder of three college students in Newark, NJ. Carranza was out on bail after having been charged with two separate crimes -- child rape and aggravated assault. The order had reportedly been in the works for months already, in response to the discovery earlier that year that the illegal alien suspects in the Fort Dix terror plot had had numerous previous encounters with NJ law enforcement.

Since the order:

  • ICE has recorded 23,735 referrals from NJ (double the number from the previous year);
  • 4,503 of these were promptly charged with immigration violations (triple the 2007 number);
  • Several thousand more could be flagged for removal if convicted;
  • 2,872 detainers were lodged on aliens who were incarcerated (up from 334 in 2007);
  • Overall, ICE removed 4,194 aliens from NJ in 2008 (up 26% from 2007).

The initiative and corresponding increase in immigration charges was facilitated by the hiring of 10 more ICE/DRO officers in New Jersey.

One problem with Milgram’s order is that it inexplicably and unnecessarily restricts the activity of NJ officers who have received ICE training and delegation of authority under 287(g). Officers in NJ who receive this authority now may use it only to screen the status of those who have been arrested. In practice, this is how the authority is usually used. But in other jurisdictions, the 287(g) authority also has been used effectively and appropriately for complex investigations of criminal activity even prior to arrest; for example to disrupt street gang or potential terrorist activity, or in document fraud or smuggling cases.

Topics: New Jersey