The New York Times
April 16, 2008
New Jersey’s Immigration Crackdown
Illegal immigration is inherently a matter for the federal government, but
local police forces are increasingly conducting their own crackdowns. The
police in some New Jersey towns have been aggressively looking for immigration
violations and, predictably, it has been leading to abuses. The state should
scale back police involvement in immigration enforcement.
After the arrest of an illegal immigrant in connection with the murder of three
students in Newark last summer, New Jersey’s attorney general, Anne Milgram,
ordered state and local police to question the people arrested for serious
crimes about their immigration status. The suspect in the Newark murders had
been free on bail despite previous felony arrests, partly because his
immigration status was never checked.
Some officers, however, have been going far beyond what Ms. Milgram authorized,
as Kareem Fahim recently reported in The Times. They are supposed to ask about
the immigration status of anyone arrested for an indictable crime or drunken
driving, but not for minor offenses. They are prohibited from asking about the
status of crime victims, witnesses and people requesting assistance. The police
are directed to report those without proper identification to federal
Lawyers and advocates for immigrants say that they have received reports that
some police departments, especially in rural areas, are routinely questioning
immigrants who are not covered by the directive, including some who were simply
passengers in cars pulled over for minor traffic offenses. These actions come
dangerously close to racial and ethnic profiling.
The number of immigrants referred to federal authorities has almost doubled
since Ms. Milgram issued her directive. Her office needs to undertake an
intensive program to impress upon police officers the limits of their powers
and the need to end the abuse.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company