Anxieties ratchet up after Trump immigration crackdown

New Jersey lawmakers held a hearing on immigration.

New Jersey lawmakers held a hearing on immigration. (2/24/17)

TRENTON - Lawmakers, activists and immigrants say the Trump administration's new crackdown on those who illegally crossed the border is causing great anxiety in New Jersey.

The Democrat-led Assembly regulatory panel heard hours of testimony Friday related to President Donald Trump's recent guidelines aimed at detaining and deporting immigrants living in the country illegally.

Daniela Velez and Giancarlo Tello say that the United States is their home because they came to the country when they were very young.

Tello says that his family moved from Peru to Belleville when he was in the first grade. He says that he did not know that his family came to America illegally until he took his driver’s ed class his sophomore year in high school.

“You have to go to the [MVC] and present your green card,” Tello says. “When I asked my parents for it, they told me I don’t have one.”

Both Velez and Tello have legal work status under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. But they say that they are worried that there are no promises that they won’t be deported.

Under DACA, Velez and Tellos are able to have driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers. But that’s as far as it goes. They both testified at the hearing about what it is like to go public as someone who is in the country without permission.

“For the first time, I feel like my voice is being heard,” Velez says. “I’ve never testified before anyone.”

The committee said that the testimony was heard. They say that they want to learn about the concerns of New Jersey’s immigrant community.

Republican Assemblyman Brian Rumpf says that Trump’s current immigration order has resulted in fear. But he says that it is imperative that immigrants take the legal steps they are required to in order to gain citizenship.

“Once there is a refusal to do that or once a serious crime has been committed, certainly those people have lost their right to stay here in the United States,” Rumpf says.

The Pew Research Center estimated that immigrants in the United States illegally make up nearly 6 percent of New Jersey’s population.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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