Immigration raid impact felt by families, employers

Eight men in Witherspoon Street apartment building were taken into custody .

By: Jennifer Potash
   The recent raid by federal immigration officials at a Witherspoon Street apartment building may exact a heavy toll, not only on the immigrants’ families but on their employers as well.
   The raid was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, according to Princeton Borough Police Chief Charles Davall. Eight men were arrested on the basis of federal deportation warrants and taken to a federal detention facility in Elizabeth, officials said.
   Maria Juega, a Princeton Township resident who is active in immigrant rights issues, said she had spoken with families of the individuals and confirmed eight men were arrested following the raid.
   Some area employers criticized the federal authorities for taking hardworking men away from their families.
   Bobby Trigg, owner and chef of the Ferry House on Witherspoon Street, said one of the restaurants sous chefs, Juan Rosas, was rounded up in Wednesday’s raid.
   Acquaintances since 1988, when both worked at the Peacock Inn, Mr. Trigg hired Mr. Rosas in 1998 when he opened the Ferry House in Princeton.
   Over the years, Mr. Rosas hired lawyers, sometimes paying as much as $10,000 to obtain legal residency papers, said Mr. Trigg, who has been sorting through his employee’s records in an attempt to help him stay in the United States.
   "He saw his amigos getting papers and it frustrated him so he kept trying new ways," Mr. Trigg said. But with a federal deportation warrant, there is little hope Mr. Rosas will be able to stay, Mr. Trigg said.
   Mr. Trigg rejected the notion that business owners like himself benefit from the pool of illegal immigrant labor by saving on wage costs.
   "It is very hard to find American people with the same work ethic," he said. "I pay these guys the same as I would an American kid but these guys do a much better job."
   Mr. Rosas, who is divorced, has a young daughter who spent a couple of days each week with him so his ex-wife could work, Mr. Trigg said.
   Now, Mr. Trigg said, it’s questionable how Mr. Rosas will be able to support his daughter. Mr. Trigg said he would not help Mr. Rosas try to re-enter the country illegally, but he does plan to give him a phone card and some money to ease the transition back to Guatemala.
   The raid has had a chilling effect among his workers, Mr. Trigg said.
   "They’re always looking over their shoulders and are afraid to go home," he said.
   Instead of rounding up hard-working — and taxpaying — illegal aliens, Mr. Trigg suggested the immigration authorities focus on violent criminals.
   "It is a travesty this is happening in our country," he said.
   Jack Scratchard, who runs a tree care service in Mercer County, said a raid last month in Trenton took a valuable employee away from the business. The employee, who was later deported to Guatemala, played a key role as a crew foreman and worked for the business for about eight years, Mr. Scratchard said.
   Efforts by Mr. Scratchard and the employee’s father-in-law to sponsor him for legal residency came to no avail, Mr. Scratchard said.
   "It just doesn’t make any sense," he said.
   President George W. Bush has proposed an amnesty program for currently documented workers in the United States. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) is drafting a letter to the New Jersey congressional delegation to garner support for immigration reforms that would provide opportunity for workers like Mr. Rosas to obtain legal status and not be deported. Patrick G. Eddington, Rep. Holt’s communications director, said the letter should be sent later this week.
   Not all groups support an amnesty, such as the one proposed by President Bush earlier this year.
   The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national nonprofit organization that seeks changes in immigration policies in order to serve the national interest, urges the enforcement of existing immigration laws and opposes amnesty for the roughly 10 million illegal aliens. FAIR argues American taxpayers are carrying the burden imposed by illegal aliens and granting them legal status would threaten job growth.