Hudson County announces guidelines for ICE partnership in Trump era

JERSEY CITY -- Hudson County has outlined the guidelines for detaining undocumented residents at the county's jail in response to President Trump's directive for expanded immigration enforcement.  The plan was announced one week after...

Hudson County announces guidelines for ICE partnership in Trump era

JERSEY CITY -- Hudson County has outlined the guidelines for detaining undocumented residents at the county's jail in response to President Trump's directive for expanded immigration enforcement. 

The plan was announced one week after Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise defended the county's involvement in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287 (g) program, which authorizes state and local law enforcement entities to enter into a partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Under the guidelines, only inmates who have been brought to the jail on gang-related charges, aggravated felonies, weapons offenses, domestic violence charges, sexual abuse allegations, or trafficking crimes will now be screened by select Hudson County corrections officers at the county jail in Kearny and housed as an ICE detainee inside the facility. 

Additionally, ICE will only be notified for inmates accused of committing an "indictable" offense under the state's new Criminal Justice Reform Act. The purpose, the county says, is to target violent offenders. 

The new immigration enforcement guidelines, which were signed by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday, prioritizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime. Although the law itself has not changed, up to 10,000 new jobs are expected to be created to aggressively enforce immigration laws. 

"I'm a liberal Democrat, one who thinks that serious criminals, especially those who commit sexual assaults against women and children or engage in violent felonies don't deserve to remain in this country to prey on the very immigrants we cherish in Hudson County," DeGise said in a statement. 

DeGise said the county will continue its partnership with ICE, but only under the Priority Enforcement Program guidelines -- which were set forth by the Obama Administration in 2015 and done away with after Trump took office.  

The county notified federal agents of the plans they intend to follow, which took effect Thursday afternoon. Officials expect a response to the policy shift from the Department of Homeland Security sometime next week. 

DeGise said the county renewed its partnership under the PEP standards and will continue to operate under those guidelines or "we would not allow our Corrections Officers to do 287(g) work."

The county's contract allows them to withdraw from the program at any time. 

"The easy thing to do in the current political environment would be to simply exit the program," DeGise said. "However there is a real public safety value in being able to flag for deportation foreign born individuals committing serious crimes. If Homeland Security is willing to allow us to do that, we will."

Hudson County renewed its partnership with ICE in July. According to the contract, the county receives $110 per day for each immigrant detained. 

However, immigration advocates have long been critical of the county's partnership with ICE. Chia-Chia Wang, the organizing and advocacy director for the American Friends Service Committee, said undocumented immigrants accused of any offense should only be turned over to ICE after they are convicted of a crime and go through the criminal justice system.

Wang said partnerships like the one between ICE and Hudson County leave open the possibility for an undocumented immigrant wrongly accused of a crime to be detained and deported. 

"Our understanding is that always criminal prosecution comes first and then the civil action comes second," Hudson County spokesman Jim Kennelly said. 

Jersey Journal city editor Patrick Villanova contributed to this report. 

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