In what they called an “enforcement surge,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday it had arrested 37 individuals in just one New Jersey county they attacked as a sanctuary.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Newark Field Office arrested 37 individuals during a five-day operation that concluded Friday, as part of the agency’s ongoing public safety efforts,” the statement read.
“The operation targeted criminal aliens who were previously incarcerated at the Middlesex County Jail (MCJ), and who were subsequently released to the community by MCJ, without honoring the ICE detainer or advising ICE of their release. The operation also targeted other criminal aliens residing in Middlesex County.”
Middlesex County, in the eastern-central part of the state, contains major New Jersey cities like Woodbridge and New Brunswick, the latter home to Rutgers University.
The operation netted a number of subjects whose histories marked them as dangerous individuals.
“Of those arrested, 16 subjects had been previously released by MCJ without honoring the ICE detainer and 78% had prior criminal convictions or pending criminal charges,” the statement read.
“These individuals range from 21 to 68 years old and all were previously arrested or convicted of a variety of offenses. Some of the arrests and convictions included: aggravated criminal sexual contact, aggravated assault, DUI, hindering apprehension, endangering the welfare of a child, battery, theft, burglary, possession of a weapon, forgery, domestic violence assault, disorderly conduct, and illegal entry.”
The statement was highly critical of Middlesex County itself, which they accused of providing sanctuary to criminals.
“ERO New Jersey will continue to enforce ICE’s commitment to public safety,” Ruben Perez, acting field office director of Enforcement and Removal Operations in ICE’s Newark office, is quoted as saying.
“Middlesex County, which aspires to be a ‘sanctuary county’ by protecting criminal aliens, in the process assists criminals in undermining federal law, and creates a dangerous environment in the community.”
As the statement had previously noted, 16 of the 37 subjects — a little less than half — had been released by the county after they had ignored the ICE detainer, a federal instruction to local law enforcement to hold an illegal alien for ICE.
A statement from county officials denied that they were acting as a sanctuary for illegal aliens.
“To the contrary, Middlesex County has adopted a policy regarding interaction with ICE by county corrections and sheriff’s department personnel which provides that the county will honor a detainer request from ICE if the inmate has previously been convicted of a first or second degree offense or was the subject of a Final Order of Deportation signed by a federal judge,” the statement read, according to NJ.com.
“By honoring these detainer requests the county has as its primary goal the protection of the public safety of our residents.”
“ICE representatives have been repeatedly advised that the county will honor every order issued by a federal judge to detain an inmate,” officials added. “ICE has the legal authority and the resources to secure such orders from a federal judge with regard to any inmate in the county’s custody it seeks to detain or deport but has chosen not to seek such orders.”
However, under county policies, local authorities can refuse to honor two-day hold requests from ICE if the prisoner hasn’t been convicted of a serious offense in the first or second degree.
Among those arrested: a 42-year-old from Honduras who had been deported after a 2009 conviction for illegal entry, arrested thrice for shoplifting from the Woodbridge Mall; a 32-year-old from Mexico who served nearly two years for aggravated criminal sexual contact and was forced to register as a sex offender; and a 66-year-old who was convicted of aggravated manslaughter in 2011 but had his conviction overturned by the courts, instead being convicted of one count for giving false information and sentenced to time served.
And that’s just three of them. Perhaps, one thinks, the criticism was justified.
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