The Filipino immigrant, who came to the U.S. legally 30 years ago, was pulled over with an air rifle, the kind that shoots pellets for hunting rabbits and squirrels, and a small amount of drugs in his car, police said.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the drug charges. Edralin pleaded guilty to possession of the air rifle and was sentenced to probation in 2007, according to court records. He served no jail time.
He renewed his green card a few years ago, allowing him to remain as a legal, permanent resident in the U.S., without a problem and went on with his life. He thought his brief brush with the law was behind him.
Last week, Edralin was picked up by immigration agents in Highland Park at dawn on his way to his job as a machinist. He was one of 91 immigrants arrested in Operation Cross Check, a five-day sweep of New Jersey by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. All face deportation.
“We never heard anything. He renewed his green card, went through the process and had no issues,” said Brandi Davison-Edralin, his U.S.-born wife and mother of the couple’s four children.
“It was just boom— he’s gone,” she said.
Who is getting arrested in ICE sweeps?
Edralin’s arrest comes as ICE appears to be stepping up arrests of immigrants living in the country legally, immigrations advocates say. In many cases the green card holders are being arrested by ICE and deported for relatively minor crimes they were prosecuted for years ago.
Many of the 91 immigrants arrested in ICE’s New Jersey sweep last week were immigrants living in the country illegally with violent pasts, including alleged gang members, drug traffickers and a convicted killer.
“ICE arrests 91 in New Jersey operation targeting criminal aliens,” read the headline on the agency’s alert to the media on Monday.
But some of those arrested in the sweep were legal, permanent residents with valid green cards, said Emilio Dabul, a spokesman for ICE’s Newark office.
“There were several green card holders among those arrested. I don’t have the exact number,” Dabul said.
The ICE spokesman said arrests of immigrants living in the country legally is not unusual in immigration sweeps.
“It is typical for there to be green card holders among those arrested in these kinds of operations. This is not something new. Any green card holder who has violated the terms of maintaining a green card, such as breaking the law, can be subject to arrest in removal,” Dabul said.
Why are N.J. immigration rights groups concerned?
Immigrant rights groups say they have seen a spike in New Jersey green card holders getting arrested and facing deportation for relatively small criminal convictions from years or even decades ago.
The trend has many immigrants worried about the Trump administration’s expanding efforts to deport not only immigrants living in the country illegally – but those who thought they had made a permanent, legal home in the U.S.
“Under the current administration, the ICE Field Office in New Jersey has increased arrests across the board, including arrests of green card holders who have lived in New Jersey for decades,” said Farrin Anello, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
The arrests are breaking up families and separating New Jersey children from their parents, Anello said.
“By abandoning the idea of prosecutorial discretion and arresting long-time residents, including those with no past arrests or with very old or low-level convictions, ICE is terrorizing communities and leaving U.S. citizen children without their parents,” Anello said.
Johanna Calle, director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said immigration advocates are concerned with how green card holders are suddenly getting on ICE’s radar. Many people are being picked up even though they pose little threat to public safety.
“This is about numbers to ICE, if you look at their reporting it’s always about the number of people they picked up, not about the facts,” Calle said.
What does the law say?
Under the law, immigrants who have been granted a green card – officially known as a Permanent Resident Card – are allowed to live and work in the U.S. permanently as long as they renew their cards every decade and follow the rules. Green card holders are warned that their legal status could be revoked at any time and they could be deported if they are convicted of a crime.
However, under past presidential administrations, immigration officials have usually overlooked minor brushes with the law and allowed green card holders to remain in the country.
That changed after President Donald Trump’s election. The president issued new guidelines directing ICE to expand its focus to deporting a broader range of immigrants, including low-level offenders and those who have lived in the country for decades.
How many immigrants have been arrested by ICE in New Jersey?
Arrests by ICE agents surged in New Jersey during fiscal year 2017, including a large increase after Trump broadened ICE’s mission after his inauguration. There were 3,189 arrests by ICE’s New Jersey office that year, a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year.
Of those arrested, 1,918 had criminal records, according to an NJ Advance Media analysis of the federal data. ICE did not disclose how many of those arrested were green card holders.
They have valid green cards. They had minor brushes with the law years ago. Why is ICE arresting them now?