NEWARK — The state's top law enforcement official has given Monmouth and Cape May counties a week to wind down their agreements cooperating with federal immigration officials.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Friday ordered the two county sheriff's offices to rip up their 287(g) agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In July, Grewal criticized the Republican sheriffs for renewing the agreements, which were seen as contradicting the state's directive to limit local law enforcement cooperation with civil immigration proceedings.

Grewal signed the Immigration Trust Directive last fall. On Friday, Grewal said the county's continued agreements with ICE blurred the line that the directive had tried to draw between ICE and the local authorities, who need victims and witnesses in immigrants to come forward and cooperate with investigators and prosecutors.

Grewal said that the Monmouth and Cape May county agreements were the only agencies out of more than 500 in the state that continued to have the 287(g) contract, which is named after the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act allowing local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with immigration authorities.

"It is my hope that they will comply," Grewal said about the sheriffs, adding that his office has authority over the local agencies.

Grewal's announcement came a day after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Matthew T. Albence criticized local jurisdictions for not honoring what are known as ICE detainers — requests by the agency that local jails hold onto individuals until ICE agents can pick them up.

On Thursday, ICE criticized the Middlesex and Cumberland county jails for releasing a child-rape defendant and two men charged with domestic violence after Superior Court judges had cleared them for release.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden, who also is the county Republican chairman, reacted by calling Friday "a disappointing day for law enforcement in the State of New Jersey."

"These are challenging times for law enforcement, as we do not recall a directive that has ever been issued to ignore the laws of this country or state," Golden said in a written statement. "As a result, we shall continue to pursue legal remedies to this directive, which deprives Monmouth County of the ability to identify individuals who have committed crimes and are here illegally."

Grewal on Friday said that the state's directive allows jails to inform ICE about defendants charged with serious, violent crimes and notify ICE about their expected release. On Friday, Grewal added weapons and more domestic violence offenses to the list of charges that would trigger notification of ICE.

The existing policy also allows jails to hold the defendants for a period of time in order for ICE to detain them, Grewal said.

ICE this week picked up more than 50 individuals in New Jersey suspected of being in the country illegally. Grewal pointed out Friday that every week, cops in New Jersey arrest 2,400 people.

"We are the ones arresting them in the first place," Grewal said about the suspects that ICE complained about having been released. "If they (ICE) are not picking up people, that’s on them."

In July, Grewal's office ordered the sheriffs to provide information justifying the continued agreements.

At the time, Golden said that his officers are in the jails, "not out in our community locking up individuals who are illegal immigrants. That is not the case. We are not out in those communities in any threatening manner."

Grewal on Friday said that the program was redundant because most of the individuals that the two counties had turned over to ICE could have been turned over under the state's guidelines.

More importantly, because the agreements "deputized" the sheriff's officers as agents of ICE, the agreements, "undermined public safety in the state," Grewal said.

Golden responded by calling the program "highly successful."

"Law enforcement throughout Monmouth County never wants to be faced with a situation where a dangerous, undocumented immigrant is released from jail and poses a threat to a community," he said. "However, this sanctuary directive will make our communities less safe, since it places people in those communities at risk for increased violence."

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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