Hablamos Español

New Appellate Decision Affirms New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive In Protecting the Rights of Our Immigrant Communities

In 2018 during Governor Murphy’s first term in office, his then-state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued the Immigrant Trust Directive as part of the administration’s pledge to assist the state’s undocumented immigrant community. The Immigrant Trust Directive is an order limiting local police from sharing information with federal immigration authorities. The Directive also restricts local police from giving a suspect immigration advice.

A Little More About The Immigrant Trust Directive

The Directive was issued as a “pro-immigrant and pro-law enforcement” initiative that sought to repair trust between immigrant communities and local police. It blocks law enforcement from asking people their immigration status or aiding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in detention arrests. Police are empowered by a state to enforce the law and ensure the safety and health of citizens. They are not trained in the policies of immigration law; therefore, issues and questions regarding such issues are out of their jurisdiction.

“The Immigrant Trust Directive has been one of the most significant steps our state has taken to keep immigrant families safe during a time when skyrocketing ICE deportations and detentions terrorized our communities,” said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based Latino immigrant advocacy organization. “We are all safer when our police are not deputized to rip families apart through deportation.”  Interestingly enough, on August 20, 2021, New Jersey no longer allowed public or private entities to enter into new contracts to house detained immigrants in the state.  Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the bill which banned new, renewed, and extended agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants in New Jersey.

Why the Renewed Interest in the Immigrant Trust Directive?

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Richard J. Geiger, writing for a three-judge appellate panel, agreed with a lower court’s ruling that a Miranda warning, in which police advise suspects of their rights to remain silent and get an attorney, is sufficient protection for people being interrogated. Furthermore, police do not have to — and should not — advise criminal suspects that their cooperation could impact their immigration status, a New Jersey appeals court ruled Friday, April 8, 2022.

The decision arose from an appeal by Nestor Francisco, an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was convicted of a 2015 murder in Newark. Francisco, who was hired to do construction work at the home of Patricia Valecia and Charles Jeffrey, was identified as a suspect in the killing of Jeffrey after the couple accused him of stealing jewelry and other items from their home. A Newark police detective read Francisco his rights in Spanish, his native language, and Francisco waived his right to an attorney and agreed to talk to investigators. During the interrogation, Francisco voiced concerns about his undocumented status, and the detective assured him “Your status has nothing to do with this. I am not going to ask questions on your status, or how you got here to this country. Absolutely nothing.” Francisco then admitted his involvement in the slaying claiming self-defense. He was convicted by a jury and federal immigration authorities formally placed an immigration detainer against him.

The Strong Message

In his appeal, Francisco claimed that his statements to the police should have been inadmissible citing that detectives misled him indicating that his cooperation wouldn’t impact his immigration status.

But in Friday’s ruling, Judge Geiger affirmed both the conviction and sentence, saying Newark police correctly read Francisco his Miranda rights, and Francisco knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived those rights before making his statement. Furthermore, according to Judge Geiger, as substantiated in the Directive, the reason why police cannot give suspects immigration advice is that they receive little to no training on immigration law. “The Directive imposes numerous limitations on law enforcement agencies and officers assisting federal immigration authorities in enforcing federal immigration law,” he wrote. “In short, law enforcement agencies and officers are not to assist federal immigration authorities unless required by law to do so.” If suspects raise immigration concerns, officers can only remind them that police can’t give legal advice and that interrogees have the right to an attorney, Geiger added.

When No Advice Is The Best Advice

It goes without saying, the Immigrant Trust Directive advocates for both good policing and protection for immigrants suspected of a crime or for victims or witnesses who fear that interaction with police could lead to their deportation; victims and witnesses to criminal activities may be eligible to file a U Visa Petition if they have cooperated with law enforcement and the County Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation and prosecution of the case. Additionally, it safeguards police from giving misleading or false information and has established important protections for New Jersey’s immigrant communities. No advice is the best advice when it comes to this issue.

The Law Office Of Michele Alcalde Is Well-Equipped to Handle Both Immigration and Criminal Defense Issues

Living in a foreign country without official citizenship is challenging. Couple that with the fact that you have been accused of a crime or convicted of a crime. Regardless of your immigration status, you have guaranteed rights under the Constitution. If you are arrested and suspected of a crime, do not run or argue with a police officer even if you believe your rights are being violated. Do not, under any circumstance, lie about your immigration status. This information should have nothing to do with the reason or result of your arrest or conviction. Tell the officer you wish to remain silent and seek the advice of an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable in both criminal and immigration laws. As a former municipal court prosecutor, public defender and private attorney with years of experience in Crimmigration Law, Michele Alcalde will make sure your rights are protected, guide you through the process and provide the best strategy to attain a fair outcome for you and your loved ones. Her compassion and staunch belief in equitable treatment is immeasurable. Find us at our social media accounts or call us at 732.766.1407.

Posted in: Immigration