Victory! Court Rules for Alien Detention in New Jersey

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August 30, 2023

Agrees with IRLI brief that state law is unconstitutional under Supremacy clause

WASHINGTON—A federal district court in New Jersey has ruled that a state law banning private detention facilities for immigration violators is unconstitutional. The decision tracks arguments made by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which filed a brief in the case in July.

In its brief, IRLI showed that the New Jersey law AB 5207 is preempted under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause because it intentionally interferes with a federal contracting program, which immigration statutes expressly contemplate, and that no “presumption against preemption” applies because immigration is exclusively an area of federal concern.

In his ruling, Judge Robert Kirsch agreed with IRLI’s argument.

“Although reference to the federal government was conveniently omitted from AB 5207, the statute is a dagger aimed at the heart of the federal government’s immigration enforcement mission and operations,” Judge Kirsch wrote. “Congress’s assignment to the federal government the responsibilities to enforce the civil immigration laws, including, when necessary, through detention, renders AB 5207 unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.”

IRLI also showed that the law discriminates against the federal government, in violation of the immunity doctrine, by allowing privately-run facilities that serve state purposes while banning those that serve federal purposes.

“Given the border security crisis that has escalated the last few years, it is essential for our country to have the ability to detain illegal aliens who have violated federal law and are fighting deportation,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Immigration is a federal concern, and the New Jersey law was a brazen attempt to interfere with the federal government’s constitutional role. The court made the right call here.”   

The case is CoreCivic, Inc. v. Murphy, No. 3:23-cv-00967 (D.N.J.).

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