NEWARK — Sixty people, most of whom were convicted criminals, were arrested in New Jersey by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents over a five-day period last week.

ICE said its “public safety operation” included the arrests of those in the U.S. convicted of serious criminal activity, to include sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, and DUI. More than 20 of those arrested had failed to obey a final order to leave the U.S. or had been previously removed from the United States and returned illegally.

"We will continue to devote the full efforts of our agency to protecting citizens and enforcing federal immigration law despite challenges being pursued by politically motivated individuals," John Tsoukaris, field office director for Enforcement and Removal Operation's (ERO) Newark office, said.

The arrests were made in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties.

ICE has come under criticism for its increased deportation efforts in recent months.

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale blamed ICE agents for ransacking the homes of Harry Pangemanan of Highland Park and Arthur Jemmy of Edison — both of whom are in the country illegally — after they went to the Reformed Church of Highland Park to seek protection from being taken into custody. ICE backed off and the men returned to their respective homes.

ICE was also asked by Rutgers University not to attend a career fair at Rutgers Newark in February because of the school's concern that "their presence at the career fair at this point would run counter to their goals to recruit students at this event and to the spirit of the event."