Illegal immigrant arrests double in NJ

29 Sep 2011 | 11:52

    HACKENSACK — New government figures show immigration arrests in New Jersey have more than doubled in the last two years, officials said. Last year 1,772 people were arrested as part of Operation Return to Sender, up from 860 the year before, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The nationwide program targets those with criminal records and seeks to reduce illegal immigration. The hike in arrests shows “how seriously we take the issue of trying to locate and take into custody these fugitives,” Scott Weber, field office director in Newark for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Of those arrested in the past year, 162 in New Jersey had criminal records, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The rest of those arrested last year ignored deportation orders or were victims of circumstance when they were nabbed in a raid targeting someone else. Critics say most of those arrested are hardworking people and that the raids broke up families. “The majority are not the criminals and terrorists that ICE says they’re targeting with these raids,” said Daniel Santo-Pietro, head of the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey. “They’re laborers, hardworking people.” Immigration officials say they are upholding the law.