Abolish ICE NY-NJ Coalition Rejects Essex County’s Carceral Replacement of Its ICE Contract and Demands the Release of 165 Immigrants Detained There
Essex County, New Jersey announced on April 28, 2021 that it will be ending its contract with ICE to detain immigrants in Essex County Correctional Facility. This is, in part, due to the long-term organizing of detained people, their families, and other advocates and community members. But it is also a result of Essex County signing an $11.3 million contract with Union County to incarcerate people from their county in Essex County jail. It is clear that Essex County is not decarcerating, but merely replacing immigrants in ICE custody with people in the Union County criminal justice system’s custody. Within the justification of their closure, County officials sought to continue to deny and gaslight the community regarding the rampant sexual, physical, and mental abuses systemic to the facility. To be clear, Essex County's decision to sever its existing ICE contract is not based in immigrant justice but rather that the criminalization and exploitation of immigrants is no longer seen as profitable. Essex County has made a clear commitment to the prison-industrial-complex.
The Abolish ICE New York-New Jersey Coalition firmly opposes both ICE detention in the Essex County Correctional Facility and the replacement of the ICE contract with the Union County contract.
First, the coalition opposes the continued detention of any and all people in the Essex County Correctional Facility, and all jails, prisons and immigrant detention. We believe in community not cages! The prison-industrial-complex is rooted within national legacies of anti-black racism which date back to antebellum slavery and indigenous genocide. As abolitionists grappling with the carceral state’s manifestation within the immigration arena, we know that criminalization and policing serve as the first step toward deportation. Furthermore, we oppose profiteering from incarceration. Commissioner Robert Mercado once told some of our members that Essex County is in the “incarceration business,” but that is precisely the problem. Housing inmates for Union County is merely another way for this county to continue balancing its budget on the backs of working-class people of color. Essex County has repeatedly demonstrated its inability to provide for the public health, welfare, and safety of people incarcerated in the jail. No one should be subjected to that medical neglect, abuse, and family separation. Essex County, and all communities, must stop relying on incarceration to fund their local economies.
Secondly, we demand that Essex County do everything in its power to ensure that the 165 people currently in ICE detention in Essex County jail are released to their families, not transferred to other ICE detention facilities, as they state they plan to do. While Essex County officials have long offered an insincere argument that their ICE contract helps those detained by keeping them close to their families and lawyers, they have done little to provide actual assistance, allotting less than 2% of their annual ICE revenue toward legal resources only after years of community protest. Even earlier this month, Essex County administrators raised the specter of transfers as a reason to continue the ICE contract, and yet now that the County has cancelled the contract and announced all 165 people in ICE detention will be transferred, they are silent on this issue. Now is the time for Essex County officials to work with lawyers, advocates, and those inside to use every measure at their disposal to avoid transfers. The Abolish ICE NY-NJ coalition demands that Essex County dedicate resources and personnel to ensure people currently in ICE detention in their jail are released.
In short, we reject Essex County’s carceral solution to its self-created problem of extricating itself from its chosen path of collaboration with ICE’s racist agenda of detention and deportation. We demand more imaginative visions of justice.
The Abolish ICE NY-NJ Coalition envisions an end to detention, ICE, jails, prisons, and policies that criminalize immigrants, specifically focused on New York and New Jersey. The coalition is made up of the following organizations: Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Borderless Existence Initiative, Critical Resistance NYC Chapter, Central Jersey DSA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Doctors for Camp Closure, Freedom For Immigrants, Freedom To Thrive, ICE Free NJ, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, New York State Youth Leadership Council, NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, NYC Democratic Socialists of America, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, North Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Drew Roosevelt Institute, Solidarity & Mutual Aid Jersey City, Unidad Latina En Acción NJ, Unitarian Universalist Faith Action New Jersey and more.