As a member of AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers Association), I have been hearing some horror stories of undocumented aliens being apprehended by ICE in municipal court after appearing for a DWI case. These incidents are not anecdotal rumors by any means: they are certainly happening, especially in South Jersey and Monmouth County. People potentially affected by this need to be aware that notwithstanding all this talk of “prosecutorial discretion,” it is ICE’s job to enforce and apprehend. The Office of Chief Counsel will make further determination as to whether that person ought to be in Immigration Court, but for all practical purposes, unless the ICE officer is formally trained in prosecutorial discretion or particularly sensitive to the issues, he or she may just be following orders to pick up individuals that appear to be in violation of our immigration laws. Or they may just be executing directions as part of an Operation determined from above. It would still be naive in this day and age to think that ICE will leave an undocumented alien alone because he/she is not a terrorist or “danger to society.” While a DWI may certainly not be tantamount to murder, it is nevertheless perceived, whether rightly or wrongly, as a type of offense that presents a grave and serious danger to the community. People need to recognize this instead of hiding their heads in the sand and not taking any precautions. At the very least, an immigration attorney should be consulted before making an appearance in municipal court for a DWI offense in New Jersey.
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