Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said Wednesday that he hopes the state will allow his jail to continue to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Golden said the jail last year turned over about 40 inmates out of a total of 7,800 "intakes."

The Attorney General's Office on Saturday scolded Golden for secretly renewing a 10-year cooperation agreement with ICE in apparent defiance of a new directive limiting local law enforcement cooperation with the feds on civil immigration matters.

Under the agreement, the Monmouth County Jail will inform ICE when they have inmates wanted by immigration authorities. The jail also will honor ICE detention requests for inmates already in the facility.

The sheriff of Cape May County also was chided for renewing an agreement. The state directive was announced in November and went into effect in March.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Golden downplayed the friction and said that he was confident he would meet the state's end-of-the-month deadline to provide the required information about the agreement as well as get the go-ahead to continue the agreement next month.

The jail holds people who have been charged with crimes but are still awaiting trial or a detention hearing.

Golden said the program under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act does not conflict with the state directive's goal of building trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

"It’s a correctional facility program. Sheriff's officers are not out in our community locking up individuals who are illegal immigrants. That is not the case," he said. "We are not out in those communities in any threatening manner."

Golden said the individuals the jail has turned over to ICE have already been charged with serious crimes.

"I don’t think we should release a criminal to go out and do more harm to our residents in Monmouth County," he said.

Golden did not directly answer a question about whether he had acted in good faith by renewing the agreement without informing the Attorney General's Office, as required under the state directive, saying that the issue was "a tough one" because "you have federal law and state law — it's contradictory."

But the 287(g) program, which essentially deputizes local officials as immigration authorities, is voluntary.

A day before, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Golden and Cape May Sheriff Robert Nolan had acted "under cover of darkness."

“What you can’t do is just go and do something like this, which flouts the directive, which flouts the oversight authority that I have over law enforcement in this state," Grewal said.

“They misdirected, they concealed and they have not been candid with the public and that doesn’t help public safety one bit.”

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