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N.J. Dems Propose New Driver’s License for What Republicans Call a ‘Protected Class of Criminals’

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal

New Jersey Assemblyman Parker Space said the state’s attorney general did nothing but create a “protected class of citizen” by issuing a new directive that stops local or state cops from cooperating with ICE or even asking people about their immigration status.

“It is an insult to every hard-working citizen who plays by the rules that the state will let some crimes go for illegal immigrants just to protect them from immigration officials,” said Space.

And once they are in New Jersey, protected from local, state, and federal law enforcement, Democratic state Sen. Joseph Vitale wants to make sure illegal immigrants have a driver’s license.

"We can't ignore the reality that undocumented immigrants are on the roads now, going to work, driving their children to school and doing the routine activities that all families do," said Vitale.

In his memo announcing the state’s new policy regarding cooperation with ICE, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal portrayed his decision as a “directive strengthening trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.”

Grewal argued that federal authorities had come to increasingly rely on local law enforcement agencies to enforce the nation’s civil immigration laws, hurting state and local police efforts to “build trust with our state’s large and diverse immigrant communities.”

And that, Grewal said, hurts everyone in New Jersey.

“It is well-established, for example, that individuals are less likely to report a crime if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to immigration authorities. This fear makes it more difficult for officers to solve crimes and bring suspects to justice, putting all New Jerseyans at risk,” Grewal wrote in the memo attached to his directive.

However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Matthew Albence said Grewal’s directive “undermines public safety and hinders ICE from performing its federally-mandated mission … shields certain criminal aliens, creating a state-sanctioned haven for those seeking to evade federal authorities, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people the N.J. attorney general is charged with protecting.”

David Jaroslav, state and local legislative manager of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Grewal’s directive issued Nov. 29 “appears to be the first case of a state being made into a sanctuary for illegal aliens by the unilateral executive action of a non-elected official.”

Jaroslav said before the AG’s directive takes effect on March 15, Grewal “may want to reconsider whether it really protects New Jersey’s citizens and upholds equal justice for all…or whether it recklessly endangers those citizens in order to benefit illegal aliens and elevate them into a privileged class above the law.”

Not only did Albence condemn New Jersey’s new sanctuary state status, but ICE also conducted a series of raids immediately after Grewal’s order in which they picked up 105 people suspected of being in the country illegally, four named in international criminal warrants.

ICE officials said the raids were set up before Grewal’s sanctuary state directive. But immigration advocate Seth Kaper-Dale, a former Green Party gubernatorial candidate, said ICE suddenly became active in neighborhoods that hadn’t seen a federal officer in “many months, or ever.”

“They’re unhappy with the fact that local law enforcement is not going to be doing the job for them. And that’s really what this is really about,” Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, told NJTV. “It’s really intimidating the community.”

At the same time, Democrats, like Sen. Vitale, hope legislation to make state driver’s licenses available to those people running from ICE will finally become New Jersey law.

The idea has been debated for years but has always failed to win a gubernatorial signature. But this time around, with Democrats controlling the state’s legislature and the governor’s office, Vitale has new hope.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D), who supports Vitale’s proposal, said the bill would offer “undocumented immigrants a pathway to a legal driver’s license” and “would reduce their chances of encountering legal troubles.”

“There are countless undocumented immigrants who pay taxes and go to work every day in New Jersey,” Ruiz added.

But three Republicans who issued a statement condemning the idea when it was offered back in May are still vehemently opposed. Sen. Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove said at the time they were against the idea of giving driver’s licenses to people “who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States.”

“Since this issue was first raised during the Corzine administration, our delegation has maintained its vehement opposition to giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens,” the GOP 9th District Delegation said in their May press release.

“Now that establishing New Jersey as a sanctuary state is all but Trenton’s endorsed policy,” the Republican trio said, “it is important residents prepare for this policy debate so that the rights of legal residents are respected.”