At 6:00 a.m., three agents pushed open the door of my apartment, said Pilar Velásquez. They took my 18-year-old son and handcuffed him. He was in his underwear getting ready for school. They put a gun on my chest.
ICE officials said they have been conducting a yearlong investigation into gang activity here in collaboration with the Morris County prosecutors office and the Morristown Police Department. Four of the arrested workers are being charged with possession and intent to distribute drugs. The raids were part of the ICEs Opera tion Community Shield. According to Kyle Hutchins, special agent in charge of ICEs office of investigations in Newark, New Jersey, the operation is about criminally prosecuting and removing gang members from the United States.
A number of workers interviewed by the Militant saw it differently.
They had pictures of those they were looking for, said Velásquez, a house cleaner, who took part along with her entire family in the May Day rally here for legalization of undocumented immigrants. But none of her family members were in any of the photos, she said out.
Juan Gómez, who works in a car body shop, said ICE agents came to his apartment building at 7:30 a.m. banging on doors with a list of people they were looking for. This time they were only looking for a certain type of person with problems with the law, but maybe later theyll use this to go after everyone without papers, he said.
The raids came on the heels of a June 5 announcement by Morristown mayor Donald Cresitello that federal immigration officials have approved the citys application to deputize local police as immigration cops. If the ICE office in Washington gives its seal of approval, Morristown police would have the power to begin deportation proceedings against immigrant workers. Im optimistic well be accepted into the program, Cresitello said. It will give another tool to the Morristown police department to fight crime, he added.
What ICE did is a violation of civil and human rights of people, said Diana Mejía, a founder of Wind of the Spirit, an immigrant rights resource center here.
The only mistake we made was not having papers, said Velásquez. We are not criminals.
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Capitalists cut wages and take away jobs, not immigrants
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