NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — At least 12 people were caught up in seven raids carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Thursday throughout New Brunswick, according to one activist’s count.
Teresa Vivar of LAZOS America Unida, a nonprofit that advocates for Latinos’ rights, told TAPinto New Brunswick that the wave of raids began before 6 a.m. April 20 and affected a dozen men and women. Some individuals were on their way to work when they were detained, she said.
Two individuals who contacted Vivar today claimed that people—presumably immigration authorities—were searching for them and showing their photographs to folks on the street. The subjects claimed to have no criminal records, Vivar said.
An ICE spokesperson, meanwhile, said today that the operation targeted those who either belonged to or had ties with “transnational gangs.” Federal authorities arrested six people for civil immigration violations, ICE spokesperson Luis Martinez said.
Immigration officials declined to provide additional information regarding the raids, possible detentions and the identities of those who were arrested.
Two unrelated witnesses told Vivar that during a 7:30 a.m. raid on a Sandford Street home, agents identified themselves as New Brunswick police officers. The witnesses told her that the law-enforcement agents wore yellow shirts and black vests bearing the phrase, “Gang unit.”
But city cops firmly rejected the idea that officers participated in the raids.
“The New Brunswick Police Department had nothing to do with what went on yesterday,” Capt. J.T. Miller told TAPinto New Brunswick. “ICE didn’t ask for assistance, and we didn’t provide any assistance.”
Federal immigration authorities merely called city cops to give them a heads-up, Miller said, noting that the department doesn’t issue special gang unit vests.
The distinction is important to both city officials and activists in New Brunswick’s immigrant community. Both groups have said they aim to foster a good relationship between police and undocumented immigrants, so that people won’t hesitate to report crimes for fear of being detained or deported.
Earlier this year, city police released a written directive that requires officers to not assist ICE in immigration raids, except when subjects have active criminal warrants or to maintain the safety of the city and its residents.
While some activists have appeared skeptical of the city’s commitment to its undocumented immigrants, others have praised New Brunswick police and officials for working with the community.
Regardless, local cops can’t prevent federal agents from taking action in the city.
One photograph obtained by TAPinto New Brunswick shows an agent wearing an ICE Homeland Security Investigations division vest standing on an unspecified street. Another shows three men—one wearing a law-enforcement vest—surrounding a man in a red shirt who’s backed up against a truck. It’s unclear whether that man is an agent or being questioned by authorities.
Vivar’s network received its first call about a raid around 5:30 a.m. yesterday. ICE agents stopped a car that was traveling from Townsend to French Street, she said. Agents detained one person who was set to be released today after posting a $5,000 bond, she said.
The next call, which came in at 7 a.m., regarded the detention of one man and three women who were driving to work when ICE agents pulled them over near Powers Street and Joyce Kilmer Avenue, Vivar said. She claimed that authorities detained two of the people and released the others, warning them to expect a letter from ICE soon.
The feds detained another man at his Sandford Street home around 7:30 a.m., Vivar said. Around the same time, witnesses told Vivar, agents entered two Joyce Kilmer Avenue homes and detained two men, she said.
An hour later, Vivar received a phone call saying that ICE had entered a house near the intersection of Lee and Redmond streets, she said.
Then came a call about a woman who was detained and released—with the expectation of future contact from ICE—near Railroad Avenue and Redmond Street, she said. After that, a man was supposedly detained nearby, Vivar said.
ICE didn’t corroborate this information. Vivar, however, is a well-known figure in the community with many contacts and a visible profile.