Gov. Phil Murphy says federal immigration authorities should leave alone otherwise law-abiding people who are in the country illegally.

“The problem I have is that ICE is also going after folks who have not come close to committing a crime,” Murphy said Monday during New Jersey 101.5’s “Ask the Governor.” Murphy was responding to a caller who asked Murphy how he intended to keep residents safe from “bad hombres.

Murphy said unauthorized immigrants who are charged or convicted of crimes "should be dealt with the fullest extent of the law."

“[I]f you got all residents in a given community or a given county or state who feel that they can come out of the shadows without fear and that they can engage with fellow citizens, with community leaders, with elected, with members of law enforcement, you got a safer community,” Murphy said. “I believe the evidence overwhelming supports that. If folks are open and free about sharing information, you get a safer result.”

Authorities who support designating cities, counties or states as sanctuaries or “open and welcoming” communities say residents will be unwilling to report crimes to police or show up at municipal courts if they fear being arrested for potential immigration violations.

Murphy cited the case of the Indonesian Christians who came to New Jersey in the 1990s to flee persecution. The residents overstayed tourist visas and the federal government never recognized their refugee claims although they continued to seek legal status.

In January, ICE arrested Gunawan Liem, of Franklin Park, and Roby Sanger, of Metuchen, as they took their children to school. A third man took sanctuary at a Highland Park church. Murphy visited the families at the Reform Church of Highland Park following the arrests.

Last month, a federal judge halted deportation proceedings against the Indonesian Christians after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit.

On Monday, Murphy referred to the man who escaped ICE by running to the church, saying he had helped to build more than 200 homes after Superstorm Sandy.

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