NEW BRUNSWICK — More than two dozen Rutgers professors signed a letter to university president Robert Barchi accusing him of breaking his pledge to make the school a "safe haven" because an immigrant was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after his on-campus DWI arrest.

Luis A. Lopez, 27, was arrested on Sept. 29 by Rutgers University police and charged with DWI and showing officers false documents. Per state policy with DWI cases, the university notified ICE. Lopez was in RUPD's custody for about 6.5 hours.

Lopez was transferred to ICE custody at the Rutgers police headquarters and taken to the ICE facility in Elizabeth and detained even though such offenses under state law would allow defendants to be freed pending trial.

ICE Newark's office told New Jersey 101.5 on Friday that Lopez is still being held at the Elizabeth Detention Center on immigration charges pending the outcome of his case. Officials said he has a history of illegally entering and reentering the country after he voluntarily returned to Mexico.

The letter to Barchi said this action was a "direct violation of your repeated assurances that Rutgers was and would remain a 'safe haven.' Any illusion that Rutgers is a place where individuals will not be targeted on the basis of immigration status is shattered once representatives of our community, entrusted with ensuring campus security, collaborate with ICE."

The signees called for Barchi to order the RUPD to not inquire about or report any individuals’ immigration status and that they must not detain people for rendition to ICE.

"Such a decisive statement is critical to ensuring that your stated commitment to our campus as a safe haven holds true," the letter says.

Rutgers has not yet offered a response to the letter.

Earlier, spokeswoman Dory Devlin said the university was following state policy that requires notification of ICE when a person is arrested for an indictable offense, a DWI or other serious violations and there are questions related to immigration status.

"ICE agents arrived while he was being processed on DWI and exhibiting false government document charges, both requiring notification of ICE under the Attorney General directive. Mr. Lopez was in our custody for approximately 6.5 hours," Devlin said.

Devlin said that Rutgers has not declared itself a "sanctuary," as the term has no legal meaning.

"Rutgers does not and will not share undocumented student records without a warrant, subpoena, or court order. Furthermore, Rutgers University will insist that any engagement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on our campus follow due legal process, including requiring a warrant where appropriate," Devlin said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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