A previously convicted illegal immigrant living in the township was one of dozens arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers during a five-day, statewide raid last week, the federal agency announced Feb. 4.
According to a press release from ICE, the man, identified only as a 46-year-old Mexican national who was previously deported after a conviction for criminal sexual contact with a minor, was one of 115 foreign nationals rounded up by the agency from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.
The agency said 84 percent of those taken into custody had either prior convictions or were currently facing criminal charges.
“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 (Enforcement and Removal Operations),” Ruben Perez, acting field office director of ERO Newark said in the release. “This targeted enforcement action 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 officers, there are 115 fewer criminals in our communities.”
Perez was talking about the 2018 New Jersey initiative from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal that severely limits the cooperation between the federal agency with state and local authorities.
Under Grewal’s directive, with limited exceptions, state and local law enforcement in New Jersey cannot stop, detain, question, arrest or search an individual based on actual or suspected immigration status.
They also cannot ask the immigration status of suspects unless it’s related to a “serious” offense or related to the investigation of an offense.
In addition, state and local law enforcement officers are not allowed to participate in civil enforcement operations conducted by ICE similar to the action during the last several days, including providing access to ICE of any state or local resources, equipment, office space, databases, or other property unless it is generally available to the public, according to the directive.
The directive also mandates that ICE must advise the suspect of their right to a lawyer before they can be interviewed.
According to a press release from 2018 announcing the directive, nothing limits law enforcement from enforcing state laws, or implying that the directive provides any “sanctuary” to those who would commit crimes.
At the time, Grewal said the directive was designed to make those here illegally more trusting and willing to talk to police without fearing deportation.
“We know from experience that individuals are far less likely to report a crime to the local police if they fear that the responding officer will turn them over to federal immigration authorities,” Grewal said in the 2018 release. “That fear makes it more difficult for officers to solve crimes and bring suspects to justice. These new rules are designed to draw a clear distinction between local police and federal civil immigration authorities, ensuring that victims and witnesses feel safe reporting crimes to New Jersey’s law enforcement officers. No law-abiding resident of this great state should live in fear that a routine traffic stop by local police will result in his or her deportation from this country.”
A spokesman for ICE could not provide further details Wednesday about the local man arrested in the raids, including his name or details of his sex crime conviction, and calls and emails to the attorney general’s office seeking comment were not returned.
West Milford Mayor Michele Dale, however, praised ICE for the raids.
“I applaud the efforts of ICE in keeping criminal aliens off of New Jersey streets,” she said.
The raids were conducted statewide and included people from the nations of Argentina (1), Bolivia (1), Brazil (4), Colombia (3), Costa Rica (1), Cuba (2), Dominican Republic (9), Ecuador (9), El Salvador (12), Ghana (1), Guatemala (16), Honduras (9), India (2), Jamaica (2), Mexico (32), Nigeria (1), Panama (1), Peru (2), Philippines (1), Poland (2), Spain (2), United Kingdom (1), and Venezuela (1), according to the agency.
According to ICE, those arrested had convictions and pending charges that 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.
Both ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s New York Field Office assisted with these arrests, the agency said.