Immigration officials in New Jersey are stepping up courthouse arrests of the undocumented, advocates for immigrants told a legislative committee in Trenton yesterday.
Because the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) does not track court arrests, accurate numbers are not available. But attorneys told the Assembly Judiciary Committee of their own clients’ experiences.
“I have had several clients who were arrested in municipal court,” said attorney Susan Roy. She said one undocumented immigrant, who helped law enforcement solve a crime and thus is eligible for a special visa, was picked up in traffic court and faced deportation.
Attorney Michael Noriega said ICE agents arrested his 19-year-old client after a court hearing for a DUI. “An SUV pulls across the intersection and several individuals jump out. One of them places their hand on my chest and pushes me back, they grab my client, they put him up against the vehicle and they arrest him,” Noriega said. The client, who is now in removal proceedings, is a so-called DREAMer who, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for immigrants brought to the United States as children, was supposed to be protected from deportation.
Advocates are concerned about a chilling effect on victims of violence and witnesses to crimes. “We can’t expect people to come forward as witnesses or victims if they’re afraid that ICE will arrest and deport them,” said Jeanna LoCicero, ACLU-NJ deputy legal director.
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