Ocean County Officials: We are not a Sanctuary County

Noting that Ocean County works closely and cooperatively with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, County officials again reiterated the County is not a “sanctuary county.”

“We are not a sanctuary county, nor has Ocean County ever had an interest in being a sanctuary county,” said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. “We have been actively working to correct the record and have Ocean County’s name removed from whatever lists are out there calling us a sanctuary county.

“ICE has taken steps to memorialize this information (March 31) by removing Ocean County’s name from its declined detainer outcome report list of sanctuary counties and cities,” Kelly added.

In an email sent to Ocean County Jail Warden Sandra Mueller on March 30, an ICE official wrote: “I want to thank you again for the continued cooperation between the Ocean County Department of Corrections and ICE… I have submitted your updated policy regarding Immigration Detainers dated July 28, 2015 to the department responsible for Declined Detainer Outcome Report and have explained that Ocean County works very closely and cooperatively with ICE.”

Shortly after the email, Ocean County’s name was no longer listed on the ICE declined detainer outcome report, (https://www.ice.gov/declined-detainer-outcome-report) accurately reflecting its status.

“A top priority for Ocean County is to make certain our citizens and visitors are safe here,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “We work with Homeland Security and law enforcement in a partnership. Our current inmate policy makes certain individuals like gang members here illegally who pose a significant threat to public safety are kept off of our streets and are given over to the proper authorities.”

Ocean County’s 48 Hour Immigration Detainer Policy was crafted on July 28, 2015 by Jail Warden Mueller. This was done to cooperate with the intention of detainer requests by ICE under the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). This policy was jointly developed with ICE. Under the policy Ocean County would maintain custody, not to exceed 48 hours, of a removable alien who has been identified as an immigration enforcement priority under the Priority Enforcement Program and that probable cause existed that these individuals are removable aliens. Earlier detainment procedures were not this specific and had not been created in partnership with ICE which appears to have resulted in the county being viewed as a sanctuary county.

Kelly noted another example of Ocean County’s cooperation with ICE is the assignment of an ICE officer to the Ocean County Department of Corrections to review all new commitments for possible ICE enforcement action.

Kelly said that under the Priority Enforcement Program, the DHS is enabled to work with state and local law enforcement to take custody of individuals who pose a danger to public safety before those individuals are released into our communities.

“Our detainer procedures went through some changes until we got together with ICE and hashed out a policy acceptable to all of us,” Kelly said.

Despite the revisions made by the County in cooperation with ICE, starting in the fall of 2015, the County began being identified on certain web sites as a Sanctuary City, even though its 2015 inmate policy had been developed in conjunction with ICE.

“Clearly we work cooperatively with ICE,” Kelly said. “We will continue to reach out to those agencies that list us incorrectly and also let them know we are not on the ICE declined detainer outcome report.”

Those agencies include the ACLU, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and some media outlets.

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