NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - A recent statewide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweep that resulted in one city man being detained has many in the community on edge, local immigration activists said.

According to an ICE statement issued last week, 123 foreign nationals were taken into custody during a month-long operation that "targeted at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and other immigration violators who had prior arrests or convictions for DUI."

According to the release, of those arrested during the operation, 90 percent had prior criminal convictions and/or pending criminal charges.

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Emilio Dabul, Public Affairs Officer and Spokesperson for ICE in Newark, said that a New Brunswick man was arrested during the operation for a DUI charge.

The "sweep" also dredged up deep-rooted feelings in community leaders such as Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park and founder of Deportation and Immigration Response Equipo (DIRE).

"When you are carrying out racial and ethnic cleansing in the guise of immigration reform, everybody who's in that category knows that's what's happening," Kaper-Dale said. "This community can feel it. This is not about criminals or this or that. This is about a guy (President Trump) who, throughout his campaign (said) the most vile and disgustingly racist and xenophobic things and has now found different ways through executive orders to put things in place."
 
President Trump's executive order concerning border security and immigration enforcement improvements from Jan. 25, 2017 called for the "construction of a physical wall on the southern border" of the United States. It also spelled out procedures to detain and deport people in the United States without legal permission.

ICE detainees face an uphill battle for justice, said Teresa Vivar, Executive Director of Lazos America Unidad in New Brunswick.

She described a legal system in which few get or can afford proper legal representation and where language barriers only hamper legal proceedings.

She said ICE agents who carry devices that can fingerprint people on the spot will sometimes go into, say, a restaurant and begin taking fingerprints of everyone present. Something as seemingly minor as a parking ticket could trigger deportation, she said.

And, as Kaper-Dale pointed out, many who are detained by ICE are the breadwinners for families with American-born children. He estimated that the 123 who were detained in the statewide sweep have 200 or so children who are citizens.

"That’s terrible because these people, they’re usually not criminals," Vivar said. "They didn’t do anything. They’ve been working. They have their areas. Other ones they don’t even have ticket or anything. They're just in the wrong moment where they are looking for someone else and they take them instead because maybe they have a quota to fill."

According to the ICE release, the operation across New Jersey was supported by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), under the direction of Troy Miller, Director, New York Field Office.

These individuals will go through removal proceedings before an immigration judge or for those under a final order of removal, arrangements will be made to remove them from the U.S.

The individuals arrested throughout New Jersey were nationals of Brazil (3), Costa Rica (3), Dominican Republic (1), Ecuador (16), El Salvador (8), Guatemala (24), Honduras (14), Jamaica (1), Mexico (41), Nicaragua (1), Peru (6), Poland (2), Spain (2), and Trinidad (1).

“The remarkable results of our officers and law enforcement partners highlight ICE’s ongoing commitment to public safety,” said John Tsoukaris, Field Office Director of  ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in  Newark. “This operation focuses on the arrest of individuals convicted of serious crimes and are a threat to public safety. Because of the targeted efforts of these professional and dedicated officers, there are 123 fewer criminals in our communities.”

The United Way of Central Jersey will present “Immigration: Separating Fact from Fiction” from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 30 at Middlesex County College, West Hall, Parkview Room, 2600 Woodbridge Ave., Edison.

Keynote presenters include John Thompson, Newark district director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Mark Vogler and Federico Madera, assistant field office directors of Enforcement and Removal Operations.

To register, visit https://www.uwcj.org/.