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New Jersey counties vary on immigrant prisoner procedures

The county jails in New Jersey and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are at odds regarding the release of prisoners who may be subject to deportation without notifying ICE first. As an ICE spokesman notes, when these prisoners are released, "it undermines ICE's ability to protect public safety and impedes us from enforcing the nation's immigration laws,"

ICE wants to pick up these prisoners on detainer requests. These requests ask that certain prisoners be held for a minimum of two days after their release date for ICE agents to take them into custody.

These requests had been honored until a federal appeals court ruled last March in a case involving a New Jersey man being held in another state. The court ruled that jails had no obligation to honor detainer requests. The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in, saying that counties were risking lawsuits if they held prisoners on detainer requests.

While some New Jersey counties as well as other cities and townships in the state continue to honor the detainers, Union County is among those that no longer hold prisoners on ICE detainers.

Whether these detainers should be honored has become a matter of debate over public safety. Those in favor of tougher immigration laws say that the ACLU is trying to intimidate law enforcement officials into honoring detainer requests for people convicted of crimes. However, the ACLU asserts that some of the prisoners in question were not even scheduled to be deported.

A spokesman for the New Jersey ACLU says, "With disturbing regularity, ICE has issued detainer requests erroneously to detain United States citizens and legal residents who are not subject to deportation." He asserts that judges rather than ICE agents should be the ones to determine whether a person should be held in prison for an additional period and whether that person is a danger to society.

If you are not in the country legally and are convicted of a crime, it is essential to understand your rights under state law as well as under federal immigration laws. New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can assist people convicted of a crime who may also be facing deportation and protect their rights.

Source: NJ.com, "N.J. county jails setting free alleged criminals facing deportation, feds say" Thomas Zambito | NJ Advance Media, Nov. 16, 2014

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