Trenton, NJ –Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested a total of 105 foreign nationals during a five-day sweep throughout the state last week.
The large-scale arrest effort began nearly immediately after New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the implementation of the “Immigrant Trust Directive,” which limits the amount of assistance local police will be allowed to provide ICE agents, WCAU reported.
The attorney general said the directive was intended to “draw a clear distinction between local police and federal civil immigration authorities,” the Asbury Park Patch reported.
ICE immediately condemned the directive, arguing that it will compromise citizens’ safety by shielding criminals, WCAU reported.
ICE spokesman Emilio Dabul said that the state should expect large-scale arrests and worksite enforcement operations “due to the face that ICE ERO will no longer have the cooperation of the jails related to immigration enforcement,” according to the new outlet.
"[ICE’s] highest priority is public safety and enforcing immigration laws,” Dabul said. “We must pursue that to the best extent possible, which will likely involve more at-large arrests and worksite enforcement operations."
Out of the 105 foreign nationals arrested during the five-day operation, 80 percent were convicted criminals or have criminal charges pending, ICE said in a news release on Friday.
Agents focused their attention on “at-large criminal aliens,” immigration violators, and “illegal re-entrants,” and already had the plans ready prior to Grewal’s announcement about the directive, the press release read.
“This operation was pre-planned and not as a result of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Directive last week limiting local and state law enforcement cooperation with ICE,” the agency said.
“ICE will of necessity have to conduct additional enforcement operations, if local police departments and county jails do not refer criminals and gang members they encounter to ICE for review and possible arrest on immigration violations,” the press release noted.
Agents arrested nationals from 24 different countries, four of whom were wanted for crimes they committed in their home countries.
Most had prior felony convictions, including sexual assault on a minor, drug sales, child abuse, extortion, domestic violence, possession of a weapon, promoting prostitution, aggravated assault, various financial crimes, and illegal re-entry, among others.
“These outstanding results, which were made possible by our officers and law enforcement partners, highlight the tremendous commitment that ICE ERO has to public safety throughout the state,” said John Tsoukaris, Field Office Director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Newark.
“Our focus has been and will continue to be on arrests of illegal aliens who have been convicted of serious crimes or those who pose a threat to public safety,” Tsoukaris added.
During his announcement of the Immigrant Trust Directive on Nov. 29, Grewal referred to illegal immigrant communities as the state’s "most vulnerable residents,” and said they had been pushed “deeper into the shadows” due to the “culture of fear” that has allegedly been created by President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, the Asbury Park Patch reported.
"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," Grewal said.
By limiting local law enforcement’s ability to hold illegal aliens accountable, they will be able to “feel safe” around police, which could increase trust, Grewal reasoned.
Under the directive, which goes into effect on Mar. 15, 2019, New Jersey law enforcement officers will be prohibited from stopping, searching, or detaining individuals solely based on their immigration status, the Asbury Park Patch reported.
They also are forbidden from participating in ICE operations, can no longer provide them with information, office space, or other law enforcement resources, and may not allow ICE to interview an arrested person unless the suspect has been told they have a right to an attorney.
An estimated 500,000 illegal aliens are currently living in New Jersey, WCAU reported.