It’s like a page out of Donald Trump’s agenda: US officials began harassing and detaining immigrants under the guise of protecting US citizens from foreign criminals. This week, ICE (Federal immigration service) agents have detained undocumented immigrants all over the country and arrests have been made in New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and other places. Personal reports have surfaced of agents entering homes and even churches to seize women and children away from their families. Constructions vans that may contain undocumented day laborers are being stopped on highways and ICE agents have been spotted patrolling in front of downtown restaurants.
If this initiative were meant to demoralize the US Latino community, it couldn’t have come at a better time: Latinos celebrate Christmas from the evening of December 24 through January 6, known as Three Kings Day. These are days when low-income members of a hard-working community put aside the stresses of poverty, menial labor and living far from home in a country of foreign language and customs, to enjoy relaxed social visits with family and friends. This year, that satisfaction and peace were shattered.
Homeland Security reports that only 121 people were taken into custody whose immigration extensions had expired but that number may be much higher. For one thing, personal statements oppose ICE claims that there were no raids in New Jersey, with reports coming in of arrests in Hightstown, Princeton, Perth Amboy, Elizabeth and other municipalities throughout the state. Second, if the 121 targeted detainees in two states were already arrested, why do the raids continue? Also, the sheer number of raids points to a very different and much broader goal.
There will be time enough to figure out why these raids are happening and whether they are the handiwork of Republicans who pledged to destroy the protections Pres. Obama put in place for immigrants. For now, we need to offer the undocumented immigrant community whatever help and guidance we can – starting with spreading the word about what is happening to them.
Una amiga que trabaja con familias inmigrantes me contó esta tarde:
Tengo el corazon en cantitos. La migra esta en New Jersey deportando. Una familia Mexicana con la cuál trabajo por las tardes en Perth Amboy me lo dijo hoy. Están asustados. El señor de la casa no fue a trabajar. Se llevaron 14 de Elizabeth. Están merodeando Perth Amboy. Por favor difundan entre sus contactos que no abran puertas si no conocen la persona y urgirles a informarse sobre otras medidas de orientación…
Han deportado personas de Perth Amboy. Andan vestidos de civil. La señora de la casa tiene miedo a salir a recoger sus niños a la escuela. El señor me dijo que la migra esta deteniendo camiones de construcción en las autopistas Turnpike y Parkway porque saben que ahí viajan los jornaleros.
A friend who works with immigrant families told me this afternoon:
My heart is shattered. Immigration is in New Jersey deporting people. A Mexican family in Perth Amboy that I work with in the afternoon told me about it. They are frightened. The father of the family did not go to work. 14 were arrested in Elizabeth. They are hanging around Perth Amboy. Please share with your contacts: not to open doors if they don’t know the person who’s knocking and to inform themselves about additional protective measures.
People in Perth Amboy have been deported. The ICE agents are dressed in civilian clothing. The lady of the house is afraid to go out to pick her children up from school. The husband told me that Immigration is stopping construction trucks on the Turnpike and Parkway, as they know day workers are transported via those routes.
Fausto Giovanny Pinto of nj.com reports:
“These are the worst raids ever,” said Rita Dentino, director of Casa Freehold. “The target is woman and children … (we) received calls early Thursday regarding an early morning raid where two U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers broke down the door of a Freehold home and took two adults without arrest warrants.
…Another woman said that on Monday morning, her daughter had seen agents wearing ICE jackets interrogating employees outside of the McDonald’s she works at in Bloomfield.
Alex Garcia shares a video by Pepe Gonzalez showing ICE vehicles parked in Elizabeth and writes on Facebook:
No es por alarmar a la población, la migra ya visitó muchas casas, locales, negocios, y rutas aca en NJ. Yo soy un voluntario de una organización que se llama New Jersey Communities United con sede en Newark, NJ. Nosotros estamos empezando a documentar las acciones ilegales que utiliza ICE cuando arrestan sin una orden de deportación, ya son varios casos hasta Ahora.
Translation: Not meaning to alarm anyone, Immigration has visited many homes, places, businesses and routes here in NJ. I am a volunteer with an organization called New Jersey Communities United with headquarters in Newark, NJ. We are beginning to document the illegal actions ICE is using when they make arrests without an order of deportation, of which there have already been various cases reported.
Updates on locations where ICE agents are spotted is being reported by Unidad Latina en Acción NJ on their Facebook page, so undocumented individuals can avoid those spots. Still, many individuals are opting to skip work and performing family errands, feeling safer at home than outside.
Senator Bob Menendez denounced the raids:
These raids illustrate the many painful aspects of a system that has failed, including harsh tactics facing undocumented mothers and children whose only mistake was to escape a certain death in their native countries. The Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have the highest murder rates in the world. We must recognize that these families are fleeing escalating violence and address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.
…GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, running on an anti-immigrant platform, has praised the raids — and taken credit for them.
“Look, what I said to her is, I said, ‘Think about it a moment. Donald Trump is praising your public policy on immigration. You should need no further evidence of how wrong it is,’” Gutierrez said.
This is a good time for America to raise our voice and insist that families and individuals seeking escape from persecution in their own countries, be welcomed in ours with kindness and inclusion. Surely we can offer at least warm beds and hot meals to those seeking sanctuary from death and destruction … especially if they’re willing to work for what they receive.