Thursday, June 13, 2024

A Kenyan among 36 immigrants arrested by ICE In Middlesex NJ

ICE Arrests 36 In Middlesex County, All Just Released From County Jail

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ — Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the Newark field office picked up 36 immigrants in Middlesex County last week, as part of a five-day operation that concluded Friday, Oct. 20. All the detainees had previously been arrested in Middlesex County and charged with a crime, but then released from the county jail.

Those picked up included a Philippines citizen charged with sexually assaulting a minor, a Mexican citizen charged with his second DUI and an El Salvadorian citizen charged with selling drugs. Immigration advocates said at least one of those picked up by ICE has a green card; ICE would not confirm.

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The mass arrests also set off what is clearly a long-simmering war between federal officials in the Trump administration and the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders.

“It’s horrifying that ICE is retaliating against a local government like this,” said Ellen Whitt, a Highland Park resident and local immigration advocate. “Middlesex County chose not to comply with the detainer holds because they are illegal. If ICE wants to arrest someone, they can issue a warrant for their arrest. But they would rather send a fax to local jails, asking them to simply hold someone until they get around to picking them up. It violates everyone’s Fourth Amendment rights.”

Is Middlesex County a sanctuary county?

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Since June of this year, the Middlesex County jail has chosen not to comply with ICE detainer requests. Normally, if an undocumented immigrant is arrested and charged with a crime, ICE requests county jails hold the person for an additional 48 hours so they can be picked up by federal immigration officers. The Middlesex County Board of Freeholders, however, decided in June to refuse to honor ICE’s two-day hold orders unless the person has been convicted of a first- or second-degree serious offense. Those most serious offenses include murder, drug distribution, carjacking and sex assault.

Middlesex County is the first — and so far, only — county in New Jersey to refuse such requests. It’s a policy that was voted on and approved by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, under Freeholder Director Ronald Rios. Freeholder Shanti Narra was also a prominent advocate of the policy. Neither Rios or Narra returned Patch’s calls this week.

All 36 people picked up last week were released by the jail without honoring ICE detainer requests or advising ICE of their release. Middlesex County Jail Warden Mark Cranston did not return Patch’s calls, either.

The director of ICE’s Newark field office called the freeholders’ decision a dangerous risk to public safety.

“Counties like Middlesex, that have policies specifically tailored to protect criminal aliens and in essence assist criminals in undermining federal law, not only create a dangerous environment in the community but also place an undue burden on local law enforcement,” said John Tsoukaris, ICE’s Newark field office director. “ICE will continue to execute its mission in such communities.”

New Jersey becoming a “sanctuary state” is a hot topic in governor’s race

The issue of New Jersey becoming a sanctuary state is a hot topic in the New Jersey governor’s race: Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno wants to ban sanctuary cities, counties and towns in New Jersey, saying they would either have to honor ICE detainer requests or face a loss of state funding (or a fine). Democratic candidate Phil Murphy has said he would make New Jersey a sanctuary state.

Karina Wilkinson, co-founder of the Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights, which worked with the Middlesex County freeholders to pass the policy, said her group thinks the ICE holds are unconstitutional.

“Middlesex County has a policy of not complying with the detainer holds,” she said. “We think these courtesy holds are violating peoples constitutional rights. And we think the Fourth Amendment covers anyone who is in the United States. ICE wants the county to be doing the federal government’s job at the county’s expense, while doing their best to create an environment of fear in the public and the immigrant community in order to meet their ever-increasing quotas.”

Whitt pointed out that some county jails have been sued for complying with ICE detainer requests, on the argument that it violates someone’s rights by holding them without charging them with a crime.

Those arrested include citizens of Anguilla, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Mexico, Paraguay, Philippines, Trinidad and Turkey. According to Witt, the Kenyan citizen has a green card. ICE refused to give Patch a breakdown of the towns where the arrests occurred.

Among those arrested during this operation include:

  • A Philippines citizen arrested for sexual assault of a minor.
  • A Turkish citizen arrested for burglary, possession of narcotics & resisting arrest.
  • A Mexican citizen arrested for DUI & contempt that had a prior conviction for DUI.
  • An El Salvadorian citizen arrested for distribution of narcotics & resisting arrest.
  • An Indian citizen arrested for DUI that had a prior conviction for DUI.
  • A Trinidadian citizen arrested for hindering apprehension & unsworn falsification.
  • A Dominican citizen arrested for possession of handguns & receiving stolen property.
  • A Dominican citizen arrested for burglary that had prior convictions for possession of narcotics & theft.
  • A Ghanaian citizen arrested for contempt of court.
  • A Paraguayan citizen convicted of child abuse.
  • A Mexican citizen convicted of criminal restraint of a minor.
  • A Mexican citizen convicted of endangering-abuse/neglect of a child.
  • A Kenyan citizen convicted of possession of heroin.
  • A Mexican citizen convicted of aggravated assault.
  • An Anguillan citizen convicted of distribution & possession of heroin.

All those arrested are now likely being held in a federal immigration center. Their cases will head to immigration court, where they can be deported. Read ICE’s press release announcing the arrests here:…

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Isaac Mbugua
Isaac Mbugua
Isaac Mbugua is a journalist and senior reporter for Diaspora Messenger

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