Top federal and state law enforcement officials told the Morristown mayor yesterday that local police cannot check the immigration status of those charged with traffic violations or other low-level crimes.
Mayor Donald Cresitello's plan for police to make immigration checks on routine traffic stops "is something our office thinks should not happen," said David Wald, a spokesman for [NJ AG] Milgram.
What would this plan entail, and how did one federal agency respond to it?
The mayor suggested the wide-ranging immigration checks in an Aug. 16 letter to U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, written before Milgram announced the new policy.
In the letter, Cresitello proposed a crackdown including immigration checks on traffic stops -- questioning all drivers, to avoid racial profiling -- as well as investigations of contractors suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, and he asked for Christie's help in prosecuting such cases.
Christie's cooperation, the mayor wrote, "is critical to the success of this endeavor because you will have to decide whether and to what extent the violators arrested will be prosecuted."
Christie responded in a letter yesterday, telling the mayor his office does not accept cases for prosecution from municipal authorities, and does not formally enter into task forces with other agencies.
"If you want to propose a task force ... it would be most appropriate for you to propose that directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and any other federal and/or state law enforcement agency of your choosing," Christie wrote.
Morristown's mayor doesn't sound too happy with Milgram's decision:
Cresitello said he knows Milgram's new policy prevents Morristown officers from making immigration checks on routine traffic stops and low-level crimes.
But he doesn't like it.
"She's handcuffed law enforcement in the state of New Jersey," Cresitello said.
Cresitello has "applied for a federal program that trains and deputizes local officers as federal immigration agents, empowering them to inquire about immigration status and start deportation proceedings." He hopes that will increase the authority of Morristown's officers to engage in these checks.