Immigrant Families on Edge After Nationwide ICE Roundup

By Brenda Flanagan

We don’t ask names, chatting with the folks standing in a crowded line. They’re waiting for documents at the Mexican Consulate’s mobile office in Freehold. And, in the wake of this weekend’s national roundup of almost 700 unauthorized immigrants by ICE, twice the usual number of applicants showed up here today, according to the advocacy group Casa Freehold.

“They feel nervous. They don’t know what’s going on tomorrow,” said Juan Reyes, Casa Freehold vice president.

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to talk about this, but the situation right now because I don’t know what it going to happen, you know? You never know what is going to happen. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week or maybe next month,” said one man waiting.

Compounding the immigrant community’s palpable fear: they perceive an apparent lack of definitive priorities from the Trump administration, governing sweeps by ICE.

“What we’re being told now is when they’re going around the country, if they go into a place and they’re looking for me and there’s five other people there, they’ll take everybody,” said Rita Dentino, Casa Freehold director.

“I got caught one time driving while suspended. So they put me in jail. That was just a traffic ticket. Right now, on my person, I’m afraid if something comes up and I have my children — I don’t want to leave nobody behind,” said another man.

But in New York City — where ICE detained 40 immigrants this weekend — Mexico’s Consul-General urged the community to relax a little.

“What we saw, the detentions that we saw last week are detentions that are not different than the ones we had before,” said Consulate General of Mexico in New York Diego Gómez Pickering.

He says Mexican nationals with children born here in the U.S. also want Mexican citizenship papers for them as well and that dual citizenships are up 30 percent since December.

“Parents want to make sure the kids are able to move across the two countries, regardless of what happens to the family and especially if they face a situation in which, unfortunately, the family is torn apart,” said Pickering.

“My 7-year-old kid asked me, what’s the situation? And I don’t have the answer for him right now. And it’s breaking my heart,” said a woman who wished to remain anonymous.

But Trump supporters wholeheartedly applaud the ICE roundup.

“If it’s significant, it goes to Trump’s point, doesn’t it? What’s this number of significant criminals doing in our country?” said Sen. Joseph Pennacchio.

Gov. Chris Christie meanwhile ridiculed a Democratic bill to replace with state funds any federal monies that Trump might slash from so-called sanctuary cities.

“That one’s so outrageous, and such political pandering, that I will veto that on arrival,” he said.

Which leaves these families deeply unsettled.

“We have 12,000 people in Freehold. Six thousand are immigrants. Most of those are undocumented immigrants. They’re all hard working family people,” said Dentino.

“I don’t want to leave my family over here. It’s a great country over here. It’s a lot of opportunities. That’s why everybody comes to work over here. It’s not bad people, you know?” said one man.

An immigration attorney’s office in Freehold told us requests for U.S. citizenships have doubled recently. People want to be citizens, but they’re afraid.