While there’s no clear definition on the term ‘sanctuary city,’ it has become a national debate topic. Especially in the last campaign for governor of New Jersey, where both sides dug in deep on the controversial issue of sanctuary cities. Phil Murphy, our new governor is for a ‘sanctuary state’, but not much has come out of this promise in his first several months in office. Is this just a war of words, and how will his promise affect Jersey City residents who are undocumented immigrants?

“A stronger and fairer New Jersey welcomes all who wish to be part of building our future and protects our hardworking immigrant families,” Murphy said in his inaugural speech.  While campaigning, Murphy indicated he wished to make undocumented immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses and college financial aid, Additionally, Murphy’s plan included the state providing legal representation to some people who face deportation by creating an Office of Immigrant Protection in the Department of Law and Public Safety.  This office would provide legal services to any New Jersey resident, including green-card holders and refugees, facing detention and potential deportation who cannot afford a lawyer.

In addition to expanding the services available to undocumented immigrants, naming towns as Sanctuary cities allows those jurisdictions to institute policies that limit the extent to which they cooperate with federal immigration agents. Meaning that they might decline to hold undocumented immigrants arrested locally on behalf of ICE.  However, even in sanctuary cities, federal immigration agents can still conduct raids, deport undocumented immigrants and enforce immigration laws with or without the help of local authorities.

Jersey City has been a sanctuary city since 1996, even though Hudson County has an agreement with ICE to train and deputize local officers to act as immigration agents. So where does this leave undocumented immigrants who get pulled over for a DUI check?

It can be a slippery slope for an undocumented immigrant who may get pulled over by police officer for a minor infraction, for a misdemeanor or a felony charge.  Jersey City like some cities nearby, Bloomfield in particular, follow a resolution they have passed this year, dubbing themselves as ‘fair and welcoming’ townships. Thereby, following the normal protocols of law enforcement, but not notifying ICE in the arrest of an undocumented immigrant.

A best practice for any undocumented immigrant would be to have an attorney who understands the process and can help mitigate any further action by local municipalities.  Keith Hirschorn has been providing efficient, thorough and prompt service to many clients in Jersey City and Hudson County. Dedicated to immigration reform, criminal and municipal law, Keith Hirschorn’s bilingual team has the expertise and experience in dealing with these matters.

For more information, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney at Keith Hirschorn, P.C. to discuss the facts of your particular case.