Atlantic County jail

The Atlantic County jail in Mays Landing

An Hispanic advocacy group has convinced Atlantic County freeholders to pull from Tuesday’s agenda a resolution supporting “continued collaborative efforts” with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The resolution was very confusing and the language vague,” said Hispanic Association of Atlantic County Advocacy Chair Cristian Moreno-Rodriguez, 23, of Atlantic City. “To the layman, you would think we were passing a (new) law about working with ICE.”

The resolution said the cooperation was within limits of a November 2018 directive from state Attorney General Gurbir Gerwal, which set strict limits on how and when county officials could work with ICE officers.

But Moreno-Rodriguez said it would take a lawyer to understand the language in the resolution.

Like most resolutions, it was written in legal terminology rather than common English.

If read carefully, it was not changing the county’s policies, he said. But the average person would have difficulty seeing that clearly.

Moreno-Rodriguez found out about the resolution Friday and talked to county officials, including freeholders and County Executive Dennis Levinson. He said he got confirmation the resolution would not be voted on Tuesday.

Levinson said the freeholders made the decision to pull the resolution. Sponsor Freeholder Frank Formica did not return calls for comment Monday.

“It was up to the freeholders to pull it,” Levinson said. “What we do here is pretty clear. We obey federal law and the initiative set down by the attorney general of New Jersey.”

He said the intent of the resolution was to reassure the Hispanic community that the county follows Grewal’s November 2018 directive, which sets limits on county officials’ cooperation with ICE in detaining prisoners, and protects immigrants’ rights.

The county, unlike Cape May County, has not signed a 287(g) agreement with ICE, to empower some of its county jail officers as ICE officers, Levinson said.

But for the average person, the resolution sounded like it was empowering anti-immigrant sentiments, Moreno-Rodriguez said.

“It would have been a lot different if it had explained in the resolution what the trust directive is — that it is meant to foster communication so victims feel safe reporting crime, and to create conversation between law enforcement and the community,” Moreno-Rodriguez said.

In short, the resolution said the county has cooperated with ICE by issuing detainers “for undocumented aliens who are being held in the County Jail awaiting disposition of criminal charges.”

It also said officials of the county jail “are cognizant of the Directive regarding ICE detainers and since the inception of the Directive have acted in conformity with its provisions.”

Moreno-Rodriguez said his group is not asking to make New Jersey a sanctuary state, “just a welcoming and fair one.”

Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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