NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A series of raids by immigration authorities yesterday in New Brunswick resulted in six arrests for civil immigration violations, according to a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Those arrested are members or associates of transnational gangs,” the spokesperson, Luis Martinez, said of raids conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division. “HSI regularly conducts gang enforcement operations across the country to enhance public safety.”
But a prominent activist in New Brunswick’s immigrant community told TAPinto New Brunswick that authorities detained roughly 10 people during their April 20 tour through the city.
Teresa Vivar of LAZOS America Unida, a pro-Latino nonprofit group, has said the raids began around 5:30 a.m. and targeted a number of people in different parts of the city.
Federal immigration officials declined to provide additional information regarding who was arrested, how many people were detained and the reasons for the actions.
Vivar, meanwhile, posted a series of Facebook videos detailing what authorities have labeled “enforcement actions.” She described how three New Brunswick men were taken into custody and that one woman was detained but then released to await a letter from ICE.
The activist has been working with lawyers and detainees’ family members.
She urged immigration officials to avoid detaining people without a warrant.
“You have the power now, but someday you will feel alone and sad and in need of support,” she said in a Facebook video. “And I hope if you show mercy to others, somebody will show mercy to you, and somebody will support you.”
In another post, Vivar described the sense of fear that has since gripped New Brunswick’s population of undocumented immigrants.
Children, she said, have refused to attend school for fear of detention. Parents worry they might become detained and cut off from their families, she said.
“It’s hard for these kids, as it’s hard for everyone in the community,” Vivar said, fighting back tears. “It’s hard to be scared. It’s hard to feel this alone.”
Whether or when ICE plans to conduct more raids in New Brunswick is unclear.
Roughly 40 percent of the city’s population is comprised of immigrants. How many are undocumented is anyone’s guess.
The large immigrant presence here has helped to make the city a hotbed of dissent against President Donald Trump and his plans to deport undocumented immigrants.
Local activists and community organizers have spent much time advocating for New Brunswick to declare itself a “sanctuary city”—a sort of safe haven for immigrants—or adopt policies consistent with that vision.
City Hall, meanwhile, has pledged its support for its undocumented residents. Earlier this year, the New Brunswick Police Department released a written directive barring officers from working with ICE agents, except to maintain safety or arrest those with criminal warrants.