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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey


Newark, NJ
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. It is great to see all of you. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

In just a few minutes, U.S. Attorney Sellinger and I will meet with some of our law enforcement partners. As this is the season of giving thanks, I am grateful for this opportunity to extend my gratitude for their service. I look forward to our discussion.

In the most difficult moments for our communities and our country, strong partnerships among law enforcement and with the communities we serve matter the most.

Over the past several days, over 40 hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7th have been released. Among them is Avigail Idan, a 4-year-old American.

We welcome Avigail’s return and hope to see the return of more hostages in the days to come.

The Justice Department’s victim services programs – including our Office for Victims of Crime and the FBI’s Victim Services Division – stand ready to provide assistance to released American hostages and their families. 

We also remain committed to working with our partners across the U.S. government to secure the return of all missing Americans, including those still being held hostage.

As always, but especially right now, the Justice Department is remaining vigilant in the face of the potential threats of hate-fueled violence and terrorism.

We are closely monitoring the impact that the conflict in the Middle East may have in inspiring foreign terrorist organizations, homegrown violent extremists, and domestic violent extremists both here in the United States and abroad.

All of us have also seen a sharp increase in the volume and frequency of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities across our country since October 7th. 

And there is understandable fear in communities across the country. Even right now, ATF and FBI are investigating the tragic shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Vermont. That investigation, including whether this is a hate crime, is ongoing. Investigative updates by law enforcement officials in Vermont will be provided soon. The Justice Department is poised to provide any assistance that our state and local law enforcement partners need as we work together to protect our communities.

Last month, I directed the FBI and each of our U.S. Attorneys to meet with law enforcement and community leaders to discuss what they are seeing on the ground and how we can best support them with regard to these threats.

Senior leadership at the Justice Department and I have done the same. In my conversations with law enforcement, community, and religious leaders, I have reiterated that the Justice Department has no higher priority than protecting the safety and civil rights of everyone in our country.

Protecting all people and all communities from hate-fueled violence was the Justice Department’s founding purpose in 1870, and it remains our urgent responsibility today.

No person and no community in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence. Fulfilling that promise motivates us every single day.

As we work together to counter the new and unprecedented threats our communities are facing, we are not taking our eyes off other urgent challenges.

Here in New Jersey and across all 94 of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, we are continuing to implement our Department-wide strategy to combat the violent crime spike that began during the pandemic.

A cornerstone of that strategy is our partnerships with state and local law enforcement and with the communities they work to protect every day.

For this office, that has meant coordinating five Violent Crime Initiative programs in Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Trenton, and Camden.

These programs are focused on building intelligence and resource sharing between federal, state, and local law enforcement to go after the most significant drivers of violent crime, including gun violence.

In just one example of what that work looks like in practice, in March of this year, this office brought charges against ten members and associates of a Jersey City gang for drug trafficking.

That prosecution was part of the Jersey City Violent Crime Initiative – including this office, ATF’s Newark Field Division, the Hudson County Prosecutors Office, and the Jersey City and Newark Police Departments.

Across a wide range of efforts, this office is doing an extraordinary job of advancing the Justice Department’s mission to uphold the rule of law, to keep our country safe, and to protect civil rights.

That includes battling the fentanyl trafficking that is devastating families and communities in New Jersey and across the country.

Two months ago, this office charged an individual accused of selling fentanyl that caused the deaths of four people in New Jersey. The investigation that led to those charges brought together the resources of the Justice Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the North Brunswick Police Department, and the Franklin Township Police Department.

This is just one example of how this office and all of our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are focused on confronting the fentanyl epidemic, the deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced.

We are also continuing to implement our strategy across the Justice Department to go after every link in the cartel-driven fentanyl trafficking networks.

That includes the cartels’ chemical suppliers often based in China, their clandestine lab operators, their security forces, their weapons suppliers, their drug traffickers, and their money launderers.

To that end, in April, we announced charges against 23 members, leaders, and associates of the Sinaloa Cartel, which runs the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world.

Since that indictment, one of the defendants, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and a son of El Chapo, was extradited from Mexico to the United States.

And just last week, Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, also known as “El Nini,” one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s lead sicarios, or assassins, who led security operations for the cartel, was captured by the Mexican government. We are seeking his extradition to the United States.

I am very proud of the men and women of this office for their extraordinary work. And like all of them, I know that none of our efforts would be possible without the partnership of state and local law enforcement.

Thank you all for being here. With that, let’s get started with our meeting.

Updated November 27, 2023