Gov. Phil Murphy has staked his political life on ardently progressive policies, especially regarding immigration. This has included giving illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded legal aid, college tuition assistance, and an effort to enable them to get driver’s licenses.

Whether these are good policies or better uses of dwindling state revenues than programs for legal immigrants and citizens is something voters and taxpayers must decide.

But Murphy hasn’t stopped there, and through Attorney General Gurbir Grewal he has interfered with the ability of law enforcement to protect the public from immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have committed crimes. With that he’s putting the public at risk for the sake of his political posturing.

Grewal made a big show last fall of ordering police to give immigrants a pass on their legal status. His Immigrant Trust Directive, which took effect March 15, said police couldn’t even ask about such status unless it’s necessary for the investigation of a serious offense, let alone stop, question or detain someone on the basis of their illegal status.

He also ordered law enforcers to quit cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the processing of criminals here illegally, unless their case involves a serious or violent crime.

Finally, in an overreach that may be illegal, Grewal ordered law enforcement not to participate in a local-federal cooperative program — the 287g Jail Program — without approval from him that may never be granted.

Cape May, Monmouth and Salem counties were already in the program, helping keep criminals out of their communities and getting free training from federal authorities. The 287g Jail Program simply allows county corrections officers to prepare paperwork to initiate deportation proceedings while an illegal immigrant is in jail on criminal charges.

Cape May and Monmouth counties have strongly resisted Grewal’s attempt to impose Murphy’s immigration politics. The Cape May County freeholders said they fully support their sheriff and the program, and pointed to how it has supported public safety.

One person in the county jail being processed for removal by ICE, for example, is charged with aggravated sexual assault on a minor and endangering the welfare of a child, the county said. This week it added a second, charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with attempt to cause bodily injury, and threats to kill by attempting to stab with a kitchen knife. Since the jail program began in October 2017, it has cooperated in the deportation of four people. Grewal is threatening to soon issue an order stopping this work.

The director of enforcement and removal operations for the ICE Newark field office, John Tsoukaris, said recently that preventing the agency from taking an individual into custody and initiating removal proceedings in an immigration court “only degrades public safety and confidence in local law enforcement, as the jail has released a removable alien to the street in violation of federal law, just to go back to the community he or she victimized.”

He said Grewal’s directive also may violate federal law, which bars restricting agencies from providing information on the citizenship or immigration status of individuals to federal officials. The freeholders of Ocean County, whose jail warden has been providing ICE with information about inmates in the country illegally, have voted to file a federal lawsuit challenging the directive.

For the sake of the public’s safety, we hope the counties prevail in their attempts to continue their very reasonable efforts to protect their communities in the face of politicking by Murphy and Grewal that would thwart them.

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