Jackson council supports freeholders’ lawsuit against attorney general

JACKSON – Members of the Jackson Township Council are supporting a lawsuit to be filed by the Ocean County Board of Freeholders which will challenge a directive that was issued by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

Council President Robert Nixon, Vice President Barry Calogero, Councilman Ken Bressi, Councilman Alexander Sauickie and Councilman Andrew Kern passed the resolution on Aug. 13.

In 2018, Grewal issued the Immigrant Trust Directive to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies. The directive limits the types of voluntary assistance those agencies’ 36,000 officers may provide to federal civil immigration authorities, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Grewal has said the new rules, which took effect in March, were designed to strengthen trust among New Jersey’s law enforcement officers and immigrant communities.

The directive applies to state and local police officers, corrections officers working in state prisons and county jails, and state and county prosecutors.

On Aug. 7, the freeholders authorized the county counsel “to institute litigation against (Grewal) … to challenge” the Immigrant Trust Directive.

In a resolution, the freeholders said the directive “seeks to restrain Ocean County from voluntarily exchanging information with ICE.” The resolution states the freeholders “seek to continue to voluntarily exchange information with ICE.”

“Our attorney is currently preparing a draft of the lawsuit, it will be in federal court, and once (the lawsuit) is finalized it will be filed,” Ocean County Assistant Administrator Michael J. Fiure said in late August.

Fiure said county officials believe federal law – and not New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive – controls cooperation with ICE “in regard to our Corrections Department being able to cooperate with ICE.”

He said officials in Ocean County’s municipalities have expressed support for the freeholders’ planned legal action against the attorney general.

A resolution passed by Jackson’s elected officials states that the directive issued by Grewal has led to increased concerns by governmental entities and police forces due to the lack of information sharing and cooperation with ICE.

The resolution states that several Ocean County departments, such as the Ocean County Jail, have continued to provide information to ICE despite the directive, leaving them susceptible to reprimand from the state.

Jackson officials said they want to authorize the Jackson Police Department to continue
cooperating and sharing information with ICE, but would refrain from ordering the police department to disobey the attorney general’s directive in the belief that such individuals would be subject to retaliation.

Township Council members said they support the freeholders and their decision to challenge the directive, and further believe the course of action chosen by the freeholders is the most proper, as it will insulate employees from retaliation.

Sauickie said, “There is one line in the (council’s resolution) that stands out to me which says, ‘The directive has led to increased concerns by governmental entities and police forces due to the lack of information sharing and cooperation with ICE.’

“I was in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, and if you are even a small student of Sept. 11, you know one of the things (authorities) say which led to that horrific event was (that there was) a lack of information sharing,” he said.

Sauickie said the Immigrant Trust Directive underscores that Gov. Phil Murphy is out of touch with law enforcement’s needs.

“Particularly something that affected New Jersey residents so much, to send that directive forward, I think, is unbelievable,” he said.

“It is a disgrace that we even have to be discussing this on the dais, but it is worthy,” Calogero said.

Nixon said he concurred that public safety is government’s No. 1 responsibility to the people it serves.