New Jersey's 1st Legislative District

Senator Michael Testa

Senator Michael Testa

Editorial: Murphy’s Sanctuary State Policies Handcuff Law Enforcement & Set Criminal Aliens Free

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The following editorial by Senator Michael Testa (R-1) on the outrageous outcomes of Governor Phil Murphy’s sanctuary state policies was published by NJ.com on February 4, 2020:

The sanctuary state policies implemented by Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration have handcuffed the ability of New Jersey’s dedicated law enforcement officers to keep the Garden State safe.

In this NJ.com editorial, Sen. Michael Testa explains how Gov. Phil Murphy’s sanctuary state policies have handcuffed law enforcement and set dangerous criminal aliens free, including a fugitive accused of child rape. (ICE)

That was made clear by President Donald Trump during his visit to New Jersey several days ago, when he highlighted the disturbing case of Luciano Trejo-Dominguez, an illegal alien who was arrested and temporarily jailed last August for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in Vineland.

Instead of honoring a request to hold Trejo-Dominguez for transfer to federal immigration officials for deportation proceedings, the accused child rapist was released by the Cumberland County jail back into the community.

Trejo-Dominguez’s release – and the public outrage that followed – would have been unlikely prior to a 2018 directive from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal that has severely restricted the ability of state, county, and local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with federal immigration authorities.

>We have heard numerous concerns raised by law enforcement officials across New Jersey who vehemently disagree with the directive from the Attorney General that forces them to comply with this sanctuary state policy.

Some sheriffs who run our county jails, for example, have expressed concern that the Murphy Administration’s directive has created confusion about their ability to honor federal immigration detainer requests – like the one issued for Trejo-Dominguez – to continue holding illegal aliens who are already in custody after being arrested or incarcerated for suspected criminal activities.

Those detainers call for immigration officers at the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be given at least 48 hours advance notice when the individual in custody is set to be released, and further request that the person be held for up to 48 hours beyond their scheduled release to allow DHS to assume custody in a safe and controlled environment.

The Attorney General’s directive, however, effectively orders law enforcement officials across New Jersey not to honor federal immigration detainers under certain circumstances.

Due to the complexity of the directive, it’s likely that many agencies have responded by releasing most illegal aliens from custody rather than risk being targeted themselves for non-compliance by the Attorney General, New Jersey’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

The clear message being sent by the Murphy Administration is “when in doubt, let them out.”

That pressure to release illegal aliens from custody in most circumstances has led to dire warnings from those who have sworn to protect us from the unnecessary risk they believe this ill-conceived directive creates for public safety, our families, and our communities.

It’s not surprising that the Attorney General’s directive has also led to finger pointing by local officials who are left trying to deflect blame for some of the outrageous outcomes that have resulted from their attempts to parse and comply with the Murphy Administration’s sanctuary state policies.

President Trump’s mention of Trejo-Dominguez, for example, clearly struck a nerve with Cumberland County officials, who have offered numerous conflicting explanations to justify his release, including: we received the immigration detainer prior to Trejo-Dominguez’s release, but it was incomplete so we had to let him go; we received the detainer after his release; and, we released him at the request of a local Vineland court for a hearing on an unrelated assault charge.

Following the President’s visit, Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella sent an urgent letter requesting that we “correct the facts” on the circumstances surrounding Trejo-Dominguez’s release.

So let’s set the record straight on what federal officials say occurred:

  • Trejo-Dominguez was arrested on Aug. 12, 2019 and accused of the sexual assault of a minor;
  • ICE faxed a detainer request to the Cumberland County jail on August 14th;
  • The jail released him on Aug. 23rd as ICE officials were en route to take him into custody at a time agreed upon with jail officials; and
  • He failed to show up to a pre-trial hearing in September and was declared a fugitive.

Despite all of the prior excuses from county officials, Freeholder Director Derella may have given an unintentionally honest explanation for the accused child rapist’s release during a televised interview in October when he said, “We are doing the best we can, but there is definite confusion at the local level on what direction to go.”

There is no confusion, however, that we now live in a sanctuary state where law enforcement is handcuffed and criminal aliens are set free. Welcome to Phil Murphy’s New Jersey.

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