Foreign national arrested by ICE in North Bergen

Part of statewide immigration enforcement sweep that nabbed 115

A man is taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Two foreign nationals were arrested last week in a statewide immigration enforcement sweep in North Bergen and Guttenberg.

Efforts conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in New Jersey led to the arrest of 115 foreign nationals.

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According to a Feb. 4 press release, the enforcement efforts targeted “at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants, and other immigration violators.”

From Jan. 27 to Feb. 1, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 115 foreign nationals. According to ICE, 84 percent of those arrested had prior criminal convictions and or pending criminal charges.

ICE said the convictions and pending charges included homicide, sexual assault on a minor, child abuse, possession of narcotics, distribution of narcotics, extortion, DUI, fraud, domestic violence, theft, possession of a weapon, robbery, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, endangering the welfare of a child, assault by auto, receiving stolen property, shoplifting, burglary, and illegal reentry.

“This targeted enforcement action focuses on the arrest of individuals convicted of serious crimes and are a threat to public safety,” said Ruben Perez, acting field office director of ERO Newark. “Because of the targeted efforts of these professional officers, there are 115 fewer criminals in our communities.”

The two foreign nationals arrested in the sweep were from Central America.

A 44-year-old Salvadoran national was arrested in North Bergen. According to ICE, the Salvadorian has a prior conviction for the offense of endangering the welfare of a child.

In nearby Guttenberg, a 40-year-old Mexican national was apprehended by ICE. He has convictions for child abuse, domestic violence, and a DUI.

Throughout the Garden State, ICE arrested an additional 32 Mexican and 12 Salvadorian foreign nationals.

Some will face federal criminal prosecutions for illegal entry and illegal re-entry after removal, according to ICE. A foreign national who illegally re-enters the United States after removal can face up to 20 years in federal prison if criminally prosecuted.

State and federal officials differ in approach

While Perez called the results of the enforcement efforts remarkable, he criticized the state’s efforts to limit enforcement cooperation with ICE.

“The remarkable results of our officers and law enforcement partners highlight ICE’s ongoing commitment to public safety in the face of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which severely limits local and state law enforcement cooperation with ICE-ERO,” Perez said.

According to the NJ Office of the Attorney General, The Immigrant Trust Directive is designed to strengthen trust between New Jersey’s law enforcement officers and the state’s diverse immigrant communities, thereby ensuring that victims and witnesses feel safe reporting crimes.

The directive is intended to draw a clearer distinction between state, county, and local law enforcement officers and federal immigration authorities. State, county, and local law enforcement enforce state criminal law. Federal immigration authorities enforce federal civil immigration law.

In effect since March of 2019, the directive limits the types of voluntary assistance that New Jersey’s 36,000 law enforcement officers may provide to federal immigration authorities. It applies to state and local police officers, correctional officers working in state prisons and county jails, and state and county prosecutors.

However, ICE is ramping up enforcement in uncooperative areas.

According to ICE, any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with immigration enforcement are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity.

“ICE has no choice but to conduct more at-large, targeted enforcement actions since the agency is unable to take custody of a criminal alien within the confines of a local jail,” ICE said in the press release.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) New York Field Office assisted ICE ERO with these arrests.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is extremely proud to have assisted in this targeted enforcement action,” said Troy Miller, director of the CBP New York Field Office. “It is through collaborative efforts that law enforcement agencies can combat illegal acts and apprehend criminals who pose a threat to the homeland.”

According to ICE, “officers carry out targeted enforcement actions every day in locations around the country as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation.”

The agency said it focuses its limited resources by targeting those who pose the greatest threat to public safety and border security.

The agency claims its arrest statistics “clearly” reflect this. However, 26 percent of those arrested in the recent New Jersey sweep had no prior criminal conviction or pending criminal charges.

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