Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Immigration raid nets 491 in region (North Jersey Record)

Immigration raid nets 491 in region
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Immigration agents arrested 491 people in May in New Jersey and New York, the largest number taken in a single month in the region since an operation targeting immigration violators began in 2003.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says the monthlong operation was part of a six-state effort that swept up 1,800 immigrants who had criminal records, outstanding deportation orders or other immigration violations.

Of the 491 people taken into custody in this region, 251 were arrested in New Jersey, said Harold Ort, the public affairs officer for ICE in Newark. Arrests took place at private residences in 16 New Jersey municipalities, including Teaneck, Hackensack, Paterson, Passaic and Dover, Ort said.

"We're committed to protecting the integrity of the immigration system," Ort said.

The arrests are part of the Fugitive Operations Program, which was established in 2003 to track down and deport what ICE calls "immigration fugitives," largely people who were ordered deported by an immigration judge but were not detained and did not leave the United States. Agents on the Fugitive Operations teams often also arrest immigration violators they encounter during a raid aimed at someone else.

Of the people arrested in New Jersey or New York, 347 had outstanding deportation orders, including 207 with criminal records.

ICE has four Fugitive Operations teams in New Jersey, which has a population of 8.7 million and an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants. The agency has 75 teams across the country, and plans to add 29 by the end of September.

Groups that favor strict immigration enforcement applauded the arrests.

"We have laws that are supposed to be respected," said Ed Durfee, a Northvale resident and member of United Patriots of America, which favors strict immigration policies. "I'm glad immigration agents are doing their jobs."

But he added: "I'm surprised that people were even let go free after they were ordered deported. If people are ordered deported, they should be held until they are sent on their way, back to their country."

But immigration advocacy groups, who frown on raids on private dwellings, denounced the arrests. Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Social Justice filed a lawsuit in federal court in April challenging ICE raids in New Jersey. The suit alleges that ICE agents violate constitutional rights by entering homes without consent or a judicial warrant during the typically pre-dawn raids.

"The name for this is witch-hunt," said Tamara Morales, vice president of the Passaic-based Casa Puebla-NJ, which serves mainly Mexican immigrants. "They're just busting into places and breaking up families and going after people who are hard working and want to legalize their status."

ICE officials defend the raids.

"Everything we do is a surgical operation that is clearly well thought out and planned," Ort said. "Nothing is random; it's all done by the book."

"The law is what it is," he said. "We are going to be unrelenting in this; it's going to continue."

No comments: