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New Jersey Activists Protest Federal Deportation Raids, Demand Local Immigrant's Release

First Posted: Feb 02, 2016 12:24 PM EST
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Dozens of immigrant rights advocates rallied in New Jersey over the weekend in protest against the federal government's controversial deportation raids, which led to the detainment of a 21-year-old undocumented worker in New Brunswick.

Last month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) apprehended 121 undocumented immigrants of mostly mothers and children in several states across the country. As a result, these raids have fueled widespread fear within Latino communities and sparked nationwide protests from critics who say Central American families are being unfairly targeted.

On Saturday, about 60 protesters gathered in New Brunswick to denounce immigration enforcement actions and demand the release of German Nieto-Cruz, who was detained by immigration agents during an early morning raid on Jan. 5, reports The Daily Targum.

Nieto-Cruz's brother, Francisco Nieto, said officials accused the 21-year-old Mexican native of being affiliated with a gang and took him into custody. Family members also say the agents were aggressive and did not have warrants when they broke down their backdoor to enter the home.

"When I turned around, they were coming in from the back door. They told me and my dad to get on the ground. Then I started to cry," said Nieto-Cruz's niece, Anel Nieto, who was present at the time of the raid. "My dad said don't cry, and when he lifted his head a little bit, they stepped on his neck and told him to get down."

Francisco Nieto added, "What they did to us was an injustice and we feel discriminated."

Oscar Barbosa, an immigration lawyer with the firm representing Nieto-Cruz, said the New Jersey high school graduate does not have a criminal record, had a work permit and was gainfully employed at a local tire shop. Advocates also point out that Nieto-Cruz was protected under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But now he is being detained in an Essex County jail.

"There is a lot of injustice around this case ... because he had (a deferred action status)," said Teresa Vivar, director of Lazos America Unida, one of the groups that sponsored the protest. "To justify the way how their agents behaved during the raid, they said that German is guilty of being part of a gang and that he is a criminal, even though German has no criminal record."

"We are aware that ICE has been conducting raids across the county as well as New Jersey," said Ellen Whitt, an organizer of the rally, reports NJ.com. "We wanted people to know we are against the raids, including the one here in New Brunswick that took German Nieto-Cruz."

During the protest, activists voiced their opposition to the raids, which is also taking place in New Jersey.

"I'm here fighting against ICE that's deporting people in New Brunswick under false grounds," said Rick Dillenberger, a 20-year-old student at Rutgers University, at the rally. "The dehumanizing way in which they conducted the raid, it's traumatizing for the kids."

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