The optics were undeniably good. Standing inside a historic rail terminal that welcomed millions of immigrants coming to the U.S., New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unveiled the Immigrant Trust Directive, a set of rules he claimed would promote public safety by building trust with local police.

The directive, however, is undeniably bad. The directive imposes new restrictions on how local police may interact with immigrants and when they may transfer unauthorized immigrants to federal officials for deportation.

In the words of Matthew Albence, deputy director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the directive “shields certain criminal aliens, creating a state-sanctioned haven for those seeking to evade federal authorities, all at the expense of the safety and security” of New Jersey residents.

Under the new rules, local law enforcement cannot participate in ICE immigration operations, interview subjects arrested on criminal charges without an attorney, and ICE agents would be barred from accessing any state or local law enforcement equipment, databases or other resources.

Nevertheless, Grewal insists nothing in the directive could be read as implying that New Jersey was a “sanctuary” for criminals. The state attorney general might be better served focusing on the optics of a photo-op and more on the real-world consequences of tying the hands of ICE, which happens to be a central reason New Jersey has been able to combat the brutal MS-13 gang.

Days later, the State Commission of Investigation issued a report to Gov. Phil Murphy on the ongoing threat of organized crime, including gangs. The authors state that “despite the absence of recent high-profile violence, it’s clear New Jersey remains a place where gang members seek safe harbor after committing crimes in other states.”

While MS-13 remains “a persistent threat in New Jersey, preying primarily on immigrant communities,” the report adds that “visible MS-13 activity in New Jersey has waned considerably in the past three years, the result of aggressive prosecutions at the state and federal levels and a close partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

The Commission contends MS-13 realizes the value of the state’s weak enforcement approach because “across New Jersey, there are indications that cliques are intentionally lying low to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.”

Grewal’s view of ICE as the enemy is unsurprising considering his boss, Gov. Phil Murphy, frequently flirts with the idea of making the Garden State a criminal alien sanctuary.

The report also lays to rest the notion popular among open border media that MS-13 is a nothing more than teenagers who like to ride bikes and smoke weed.

In fact, the Commission says a decade-long effort by MS-13 leaders in El Salvador to exert greater control over U.S.-based cliques “has fully taken root,” and now “take orders from El Salvador, seek permission from El Salvador for killings and pay tribute by wiring cash to leaders in the Central American nation.”

The myth-making and Hollywood photo ops may make good television, but it endangers the lives of those in the real-world.

Jennifer G. Hickey writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform.

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