Shortly after Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey, President Trump announced a “get tough” policy on illegal immigrants and threatened to withhold federal funding from cities and states that did not cooperate with Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

In response, Murphy labeled New Jersey as an immigrant-friendly “sanctuary state,” but he never really spelled out what that meant.

Next month the issue, in New Jersey at least, should be clarified.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that policies from 2007 allow authorities to question criminal defendants about their immigration status, but that "doesn’t reflect the immigration realities of today.”

Grewal said the new directive should be completed within the next month or so “and it will spell out when we can and when we can’t cooperate with federal civil immigration authorities.”

“If federal immigration authorities have a criminal warrant and they need our assistance and they need assistance in executing criminal warrants issued by a judge, we’ll cooperate. Regardless of immigration status, if someone violates the laws of this state, they’ll be arrested, they’ll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

But he also said “we’re not here as state law enforcement officers to enforce federal civil immigration laws and we’re going to spell that out in the forthcoming guidance.”

Grewal explained the new guidance is being put together by a wide group of stakeholders.

“It includes chiefs of police, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and civil rights organizations," he said.

Like most advocates of separating immigration enforcement from local law enforcement, Grewal said the goal is to have all residents trust local authorities.

“We work hard to encourage minority communities to come out of the shadows to report crimes,” he said. “And when they feel they can’t trust this badge and come and report a crime because we may enforce federal civil immigration laws, that makes it harder for 30,000 plus law enforcement officers to do their jobs.”

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