Wednesday, August 5, 2015
County Executive Dennis Levinson has directed his legal staff to develop protocols, in cooperation with the New Jersey Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to assist in the arrest, detention and ultimate deportation of illegal aliens engaged in criminal activity.
“As a result of these efforts, we are now better able to deter criminal activity by illegals and avoid a situation like the one that recently occurred in San Francisco,” stated Levinson. “This should be a wakeup call for every jurisdiction.”
The San Francisco case involved a previously deported illegal alien with a criminal history who was released into the general population and obtained a weapon with which he shot and killed a 32-year-old woman.
“After the San Francisco tragedy I asked County Counsel James Ferguson and members of the County Law Department to meet with ICE officers to develop protocols for cooperation and assistance while also ensuring liability protection for county government,” explained Levinson.
In a 2014 decision, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals imposed a financial liability on Lehigh County, Pennsylvania after its county jail officials held a person they believed to be an illegal on detainer for several days when in fact he was an American citizen. Lehigh County argued its actions were immunized because the detainer had been issued at the request and in cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the Federal Circuit rejected its claim. The total settlement was approximately $150,000.
“This will not occur in Atlantic County,” Levinson stated. “Just because someone may work and/or associate with illegals does not mean that the person is an illegal. Those type of assumptions are unacceptable and can prove to be costly mistakes.”
“At the same time, we must adhere to federal regulations which at times can boggle the mind. For example, if someone is picked up on suspicion of a crime but is cleared upon questioning, he is released. If that same person is found to be an illegal alien, according to federal guidelines he cannot be held on that basis alone.”
Atlantic County has been assured by ICE that it has revamped its procedures over the past year to better ensure proper identification and legal probable cause for continued detention of illegal aliens. Additionally, more timely and effective notification procedures will be implemented due to this collaborative effort of Atlantic County and ICE officials.
“If we detain someone in accordance with ICE criteria, we have now been guaranteed that ICE will respond within 48 hours if not sooner,” noted Levinson. “There will be no delays in justice on our watch.”
“We take seriously our responsibility to provide for the safety and protection of our residents and visitors,” concluded Levinson.