A recent report on the extent to which state, county and local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey have been cooperating with federal immigration authorities has not received much attention so I am shining a light on it.

What I find particularly striking and upsetting is what it shows about the jail in Essex County, where I live. There are more instances of Essex County Corrections working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) than in all other 20 counties combined. Essex County has even collaborated more than the state Department of Corrections and thus the entire state prison system. 

The Immigrant Trust Directive  

The report, released last month, is required by the Immigrant Trust Directive, No, 2018-6, issued by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in November 2018. Applicable to state and local police officers, correctional officers working in state prisons and county jails, and state and county prosecutors, the directive limits the types of assistance that New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers may provide to federal immigration authorities.

The directive, which took effect on March 15, 2019, requires an annual report so the first one, released in November 2020, runs from that date until the end of 2019.

It limits cooperation with ICE to what is legally required by virtue of law or court order and does so for the stated purpose of preserving trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement in order to protect public safety.  

Thus, law enforcement officers in NJ may not help enforce ICE detainers or administrative warrants or orders. They may not ask about immigration status unless relevant to or necessary to the offense at issue nor may they stop, question, arrest, search or detain anyone based solely on immigration status or suspected violation of immigration laws. With limited exceptions (which include enforcing of NJ criminal laws, complying with applicable federal, state  and local law or a valid request or order from a court, exigent circumstances, and joint taskforce operations whose primary purpose is not related to civil immigration enforcement), they may not take part in immigration enforcement operations, provide ICE with nonpublic personally identifying information (such as SSN, driver’s license number, unlisted  phone number, bank or credit information) or let ICE use equipment, office space, data, etc.  Subject to those same exceptions, they also may not provide ICE access to a detainee for an interview without the detainee’s informed written consent, or notify ICE of an upcoming release or hold onto someone for ICE past the time they are eligible for release, unless that person is charged with, or has been convicted within the last five years, of a violent or serious offense (defined in the Directive) or is subject to a deportation order that has been signed by a federal judge and is in the possession of the prison or jail.

The Directive emphasizes that no law enforcement agency in NJ need do anything for ICE beyond what is required by law, stating: “This Directive does not mandate that law enforcement officials provide assistance in any particular circumstance, even when by the terms of the Directive, they are permitted to do so.”   

Despite that caveat and all the Directive’s prohibitions, cooperation with ICE (presumably within the exceptions) occurred more than 1,300 times during the nine and one half months covered by the report. And Essex County was responsible for more than half of those times.

Such collaboration by any county with ICE is troubling given that the agency, long known for ripping people from their families and communities and incarcerating them for indefinite periods before deporting them, got even worse under Trump, escalating those activities, denying refugees the opportunity to apply for asylum and taking thousands of children from parents and then losing track of some of them. (As of October, the parents of 545 of them still had not been found.)

Essex is overwhelmingly Democratic, has a large immigrant population and its largest city, Newark, the seat of the County government and the situs of the County jail, has proclaimed itself a sanctuary city. But it is also one of three counties in NJ that are currently housing ICE detainees, bringing in about $40 million per year for Essex. That contract has brought sustained and vocal opposition from community, faith and other groups, who have been urging Essex to end the arrangement. Their efforts, bolstered by a scathing federal report in 2019 on the conditions in which detainees are housed at the Essex County Jail. have had an impact. In 2020, the County governing body, the Essex County Freeholders (renamed Commissioners as of Jan. 1, 2020), established a civilian oversight board to monitor jail conditions for detainees and the President of the Freeholder/Commissioner Board, Brendan Gill, has spoken out publicly against the County’s contract with ICE. And last June, the Board went so far as to pass a symbolic resolution calling for release of the detainees during the pandemic.

Still, somehow, Essex continues to profit from their detention and has done far more to help ICE than any other county, including Bergen and Hudson, which have their own contracts with ICE. Essex County’s 700 or so reported instances of cooperation dwarf the fewer than 100 reported by Bergen. And Hudson has only one.

In contrast, Sussex County, where county officials staked out a position in opposition to the state directive and voters in November 2019 overwhelmingly approved a referendum in favor of cooperation with ICE, showed almost no cooperation during 2019, at least—just 3 instances where it gave ICE a heads up on an impending release. (Sussex number’s might be low though because it began transferring its inmates to Morris County on July 1, 2019 and ceased operating its own jail by fall of 2019.

What the Numbers Show  

Not a single county provided assistance in two areas—participating in enforcement operations or allowing ICE access to law enforcement assets. Nor did the DOC.

With regard to providing ICE with non-public personally identifying information, only two counties –Camden and Cape May – did so—Camden twice and Cape May 30 times.

Multiple counties, however, allowed ICE to interview a detained individual (551 instances by 10 counties and the DOC), tipped ICE off about a prisoner’s upcoming release (779 instances by 18 counties and the DOC) and held onto them past their release eligibility (403 instances by 10 counties), though they are not allowed to do so past midnight of the release eligibility date.

For Essex those numbers are 360 ICE interviews, 168 tipoffs and 168 holds. The identical number of tipoffs and holds would seem to indicate that Essex was not only kind enough to let ICE know it was about to release someone but obligingly held on to that same individual until ICE could come and grab them on the way out. 

The DOC gave ICE tipoffs even more frequently than Essex, on 238 occasions, but it never held onto anyone for ICE. It allowed 124 ICE interviews, roughly one-third the Essex number.

Other than Essex, the counties that did the most for ICE were Bergen (2 interviews, 49 tipoffs and 44 holds), Cape May (30 interviews, 11 tip-offs and 11 holds as well as 30 instances of supplying personal information), Middlesex (7 interviews, 70 tipoffs and 70 holds), Monmouth (2, 25 and 25), Morris (0, 36 and 35), and Ocean (0, 44 and 21).  

Surprisingly, the report shows almost no cooperation from Sussex County—just three tipoffs about an impending release and nothing else. Yet County officials in Sussex vociferously opposed the Directive and put the question of cooperation with ICE to a referendum in November 2019 that won overwhelming approval from voters. One reason Sussex’s numbers might be low is that it began transferring its inmates to Morris County on July 1, 2019 and ceased operating its own jail by fall of 2019.

At the local level, the report shows collaboration with ICE by less than a handful of the state’s hundreds of police departments. A mere three in three counties, none of them in Essex, rendered minimal assistance. The Lawrence Township Department in Mercer took part in one ICE enforcement action. The Lakewood police in Ocean County provided ICE with non-public personal identifying information on one occasion and the Plainfield police in Union County notified ICE about one release and delayed one release, presumably the same one.

Appleseed Network Applauds Thursday’s Supreme Court Decision Upholding DACA

The Appleseed Network celebrates the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Thursday morning, June 18th, in favor of blocking the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Court found that the Trump administration’s September 2017 move to terminate the program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and that the impact of the program’s termination on DACA recipients – at least 650,000 young immigrants brought to the US as children – was not properly taken into account.

DACA is a program initially announced in 2012 by former President Barack Obama that allows undocumented young people across the country to harness their skills and education to work and contribute to their communities. Dreamers (those protected under DACA) are able to enroll in college, obtain driver’s licenses, and continue their careers in the place they know as home. Under President Trump’s termination of DACA, new applications to the program were no longer accepted. Thursday morning, the Court’s positive ruling reaffirmed that DACA recipients will continue to be able to live in the US without fear of deportation, as well as pursue higher education and gainful employment.

DACA recipients are highly involved in communities throughout the US, practice political and civic engagement, and have been woven into the economic fabric of America. The Center for American Progress reported that DACA recipients and their households contribute $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes annually. Additionally, according to the Migration Policy Institute, “55% of DACA recipients are employed, amounting to 382,000 workers [and] 62% of those not in the labor force are enrolled in school.” During the current COVID-19 crisis – which has taken the lives of at least 120,000 people in the US – it is crucial that we acknowledge the 29,000 Dreamers who are working as health care workers and home care providers on the frontlines, and the more than 150,000 Dreamers who are essential workers providing education, growing and producing food, and keeping shelves stocked. Appleseed works to promote equity, security, and justice for children and families across the US and Mexico, and we applaud the DACA program as both a pathway for young undocumented immigrants to achieve their educational and economic goals as well as a recognition of immigrants’ inherent human rights, no matter their citizenship status.

While the ruling is a huge win for immigrants and immigration justice activists around the nation, it is only the first step in securing permanent protections for Dreamers. The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, passed by the House of Representatives in Spring of 2019, would provide these protections and create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. We urge the Senate to pass this bill in order to recognize the right of Dreamers to live free of fear and to pursue their dreams on American soil.

The Appleseed Network stands in solidarity with immigrants when we say, #HomeisHere.

NJ Appleseed Statement on the Murder of George Floyd and the Ensuing Unrest

We condemn in the strongest terms the murder of George Floyd, who was suffocated to death last week by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he gasped for breath and pleaded for mercy, as well as the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, chased and shot by vigilantes in Georgia for jogging while black, and Breonna Taylor,  shot by police in her own Louisville home. The list of people of color who have been wrongfully killed, mainly by police who typically do so with impunity, goes on and on and it has to stop.

We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and every other group and individual who share that belief and have been exercising their First Amendment rights to proclaim it. The mass protests throughout the United States and around the world over the past week give voice to the anger and anguish of those whose cries for justice have gone unanswered for far too long. In a few instances, remarkably few given the provocations, both recent and historical, understandable frustration has boiled over into violence and property damage.

For the most part, people have stood, knelt and marched peacefully, keeping their eyes on the prize and demanding justice. In a number of instances, including some here in New Jersey, police have joined with protesters, marching and even kneeling alongside them. In too many places, however, most notably Washington D.C., in the shadow of the White House, protesters have been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades and other forms of police violence, which we condemn as strongly as we do the murder of George Floyd. It is not only an egregious violation of the rights of the protesters but a betrayal of our values as a nation and a stain upon our country.

In our home city of Newark, NJ, where the beating of a black taxi driver by police in the summer of 1967, sparked four days of riots that left 26 people dead and hundreds injured, the past was not prelude. That was, at least in part, thanks to Mayor Ras Baraka who called a press conference on the steps of City Hall to express support for the protest, marched in the front lines and spoke before the crowd about his own experiences as a youth protesting the deaths of black people at the hands of police. The City’s top police officials likewise voiced support and denounced police brutality and the “senseless murder” of Floyd.  Much credit also goes to the organizers, People’s Organization for Progress, and its long-time leader, Larry Hamm.

For our own part, NJ Appleseed will continue to be part of the long-term, big-picture solution as we work to change institutional structures and public policies in areas that disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, including affordable health care, voting rights, community and environmental infrastructure and preserving public ownership or access to essential resources like water systems and hospitals.

Now is the time to move forward and demand structural change; we cannot return to the pre-Trump status quo.  The United States must face the ravages wrought by capitalism, and work toward establishing a just social and political order.


Remembering David Perry Davis

I was greatly saddened to learn a few weeks ago that David Perry Davis died unexpectedly on October 3, at the age of 55.

David was a passionate and principled advocate who, probably more than any other individual, improved the quality of justice in the New Jersey court system for poor people who fall behind on child support.

In addition to the countless clients and colleagues whose lives he touched and improved through his practice as a family lawyer, David won two landmark court decisions that protect parents who owe child support from being locked up or barred from driving just because they cannot afford to pay. Continue reading Remembering David Perry Davis

SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors

A recent blog post discussed the case of Michael Baca, a Presidential Elector from Colorado who instead of voting for Hillary Clinton–as required by state law because she won the state’s popular vote–voted for moderate Republican John Kasich.

Along with other Electors in Colorado and elsewhere, Baca was trying to get Republican electors who might be similarly horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency – it is hard to believe now but there were many in 2016–to help save us from that fate by diverting enough votes to throw the presidential race into the House of Representatives. The U.S. Constitution requires that  when no candidate reaches the 270 votes needed for an Electoral College majority, the House determines who gets to be President from among the top three vote-getters, as has happened on three occasions.

All but two states require Electors to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote in a winner-take-all manner. Throughout history, a handful of Electors have refused to do so and they have often been referred to as Faithless Electors. Baca, however, who launched his effort with Peter Chiafalo, a Democratic Elector from Washington State, dubbed his group the “Hamilton Electors,” a name with more contemporary cachet thanks to the Broadway musical. He named it after founding father Alexander Hamilton, whose Federalist paper No. 68, described the role of Electors in making the case for having the President chosen by them, rather than by the popular vote.

The State of Colorado refused to count Baca’s vote, removed him, and replaced him with someone who then voted for Clinton. It also threatened Baca with criminal prosecution but did not carry through on the threat.

Baca sued and on August 20, 2019, the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that states, though they determine how Electors are chosen, cannot dictate to them how they vote, no remove them or punish them for their votes. “The text of the Constitution makes clear that states do not have the constitutional authority to interfere with presidential electors who exercise their constitutional right to vote for the President and Vice President candidates of their choice,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Carolyn B. McHugh, in Baca v. Colorado Department of State. She was joined by Judge Jerome A. Holmes in the 2-1 ruling, with the third judge on the panel, Mary Beck Briscoe, dissenting based on her view that the case was moot.

Now a similar challenge brought by three Hamilton Electors, Chiafalo v. State of Washington, aims to bring the question of Elector discretion before the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading SCOTUS Asked to Decide re Hamilton Electors


Donald Trump won the Presidency in 2016 despite being trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

Thanks to the Electoral College, the profoundly undemocratic body that actually elects our Presidents and Vice-Presidents, Trump’s slight margin of victory in a few key states outweighed the millions more votes cast nationwide by those who preferred Clinton.

The Electoral College has been enshrined in our system from the start, in Article II, section 1, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. It was modified in 1804, with ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, which requires separate votes for President and Vice-President.

Most years, the results of the Electoral College vote match up with the popular vote.  But after 2016, when it thwarted the will of the people for the second time in 16 years (and for two of our last three Presidents), many people realized that we must do something about it if we want to make sure that the person who wins the most votes is the one who becomes President. Continue reading RULING ALLOWS ELECTOR DISCRETION BUT MIGHT IMPEDE EFFORT TO CIRCUMVENT ELECTORAL COLLEGE


When the United States Supreme Court weakened Voting Rights Act protections in 2013, many worried that it would open the floodgates to a new wave of voter suppression.

There was good reason to be concerned, as the Brennan Center for Justice has once again confirmed.

A report it released in July 2018 found that from 2014 to 2016—the two years following the 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529—almost 16 million people throughout the U.S. were removed from voting rolls.  That was almost four million more than the number who were removed from voter lists between 2006 and 2008, a roughly 33% increase that far exceeded the growth in total population (6%) and total registered voters (18%) over that same time frame.

The Brennan Center also found that the purging occurred at a higher rate in those areas, mainly in the South, that because of their history of discrimination had been subject to the protections abrogated by the Supreme Court in Shelby.  For the two election cycles between 2012 and 2016, those so-called preclearance jurisdictions, which were let off the hook by the Shelby ruling, had purge rates significantly higher than elsewhere. The Center calculated that if those jurisdictions had remained subject to the previous constraints, two million fewer voters would have been struck from the lists. Texas alone erased more than 363,000 voters in the first election cycle after Shelby.

Now, a follow-up report, made public on August 1, has found that the heightened rate of voter purges continued between 2016 and 2018. Continue reading MORE VOTERS PURGED WHERE SUPREME COURT LIFTED RESTRICTIONS


More than 20 U.S. state governments betrayed the health and well-being of their residents five years ago when they decided against expanding Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare. Now, thanks to a just published study, we have a good idea of the human cost: nearly 16,000 deaths over the four-year period from January 2014, when the expansion initially took effect, through the end of 2017.

The study, released on July 21, looked at what would have occurred if Medicaid had been expanded nationwide in 2014. Based on the differences in mortality between states that expanded and those that didn’t, the study found that 15,600 deaths in the non-expansion states would have been prevented if those states too had expanded Medicaid. Continue reading REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID KILLED 15,000+, NEW STUDY FINDS


I was really happy to see last week that the New Jersey courts were taking concrete action to protect people from the harsh immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

Administrative Directive 07-19, released on May 23, states the view of the judiciary “that civil immigration enforcement activities should not take place in courthouses” and that “courthouses must be viewed by the public, all parties, victims, and witnesses as a neutral and safe forum to resolve disputes.” Continue reading NJ COURTS PROVIDE ICE SHIELD

Police Use of Force Varies by Race and Region, with Fear a Major Factor

I don’t write much about criminal justice issues, but I would like to share this article entitled “How Fear Contributes to Cops’ Use of Deadly Force.”  It was written by Columbia University professors Rajiv Sethi and Brendan “Dan” O’Flaherty and posted today on The Marshall Project website.  (Dan O’Flaherty is my husband.)

Their data-driven article starts out with the troubling fact that police in the United States  kill civilians far more often than police in other countries, more than 1,000 each year, as contrasted with, for example, the combined 10 per year killed by British and German police.

Not surprisingly, there are striking racial disparities on who is at the receiving end of this police violence. For instance, black residents of Houston are four times more likely to face deadly force than white ones. In New York and Los Angeles, they are six to seven times more likely to die in police shootings. And in Chicago, they are 18 times more likely to be killed by police.

What is surprising is the regional differences that were found, which are so substantial that whites in Houston are more likely to be killed by police than blacks in New York City.

You can read the article here.

And if you find the topic of interest, read their book, published last month, called “Shadows of Doubt,” which looks at the impact of stereotypes and fear on policing and prosecution.

Yes, this is a shameless plug for my husband’s book but the book is a timely, deeply researched and thoughtful look at an important subject.

Image at top is from Wikipedia.