California officially became the first “sanctuary state” in the nation on Monday, but they will not be the only one if New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy keeps the promises he made during the campaign.
During one of the gubernatorial debates, the Democratic candidate publicly challenged President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), saying he was willing to “stand up to” to protect beneficiaries of the program.
“We will stand up to this president. If need be, we will be a sanctuary not just city but state. This is America,” Murphy said.
Murphy made clear in laying out his positions that he would “oppose any efforts to use state and local police to assist in mass deportation” and favored additional public funds being spent to benefit illegal immigrants.
The Democrat outlined his plans to “make life easier” for illegal immigrants by providing them with driver’s licenses and statewide identification cards, extending in-state financial aid, and increasing access to professional licenses for immigrants.
How far Murphy will go to “stand up to” the Trump administration will become clearer as his policy agenda is rolled out. What is clear is that like California, local jurisdictions have been setting immigration policy in the absence of action or leadership on the federal level.
Well before Trump was elected, Newark’s Police Department issued a memorandum changing its policy toward enforcing federal immigration law. The July 2013 directive included ordering all personnel to “decline ICE detainer requests” and stating that there “shall be no expenditure of any departmental resources or effort by on-duty personnel to comply with an ICE detainer request.”
For more than a decade, Newark was permitted to maintain that policy, but last November, the Department of Justice sent letters to 29 jurisdictions, including Newark, informing them their promotion of “sanctuary” policies placed their federal funding at risk.
The other Garden State city was Middlesex, where the negative impact of lax enforcement of federal law was laid bare in October when 36 people were arrested as part of an operation targeting criminal aliens who were previously incarcerated at the Middlesex County Jail.
Beating Murphy to the punch, on Monday the first action taken by incoming Mayor Ravi Bhalla was to issue an executive order designating the city of Hoboken as “fair and welcoming.” In short, they too would not assist federal law enforcement agents.
Under the directive, no city employee can question any individual about their immigration status and no municipal facilities or databases can be accessed by federal immigration agents.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop signed a similar order in 2017.
The swords have been drawn in the latest immigration battle, but only time will tell who will blink first.