After a review driven by three brutal slayings, the state attorney general on Wednesday ordered New Jersey law enforcers to notify federal immigration officials whenever someone arrested for an indictable offense or drunken driving is found to be an illegal immigrant.
Attorney General Anne Milgram reviewed the state's policy in light of the execution-style killings Aug. 4 of three Newark college students and the wounding of a fourth victim. One of the six suspects was an illegal immigrant who had been granted bail on child rape and aggravated assault charges without immigration officials being alerted to his existence.
While saying she did not want to "Monday morning quarterback" the Newark case, Milgram said that if the policy had been in place when Jose Carranza was indicted on the prior charges, federal officials might have placed an immigration hold on him, meaning he would have remained in custody or bail might have been set higher because of his immigration status.The killings highlighted the need "to have a uniform state policy on notification to immigration," Milgram said.
Before the directive, "all police departments in our state had complete discretion as to if, when and how to notify immigration authorities."The policy applies immediately to all state and local law enforcement and to prosecutors. It also specifies that police notify prosecutors and courts when illegal immigrants are arrested.
What's wrong with that picture?
For starters, it only covers a narrow range of offense and suggests that local law enforcement officials have to decide whether the arrested person is an illegal alien.
The fact of the matter is that immigration laws also provide possible exclusion penalties for legal aliens who commit certain offenses.
A better, nondiscriminatory way would be for all arrest data to be electronically transmitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement as that agency must determine (1) whether the arrested person is likely to be an illegal alien or (2) if the arrested person is a legal alien, whether the offense mandates exclusion proceedings under federal law.
The other "up side" of full disclosure is that it does not single out or discriminate. Plus, it could be done electronically and seamlessly.