By Guest Contributor Madelyn Hoffman.
More than a dozen activists rallied in front of Kean University on the bitterly cold afternoon of March 2nd, and then walked across campus to deliver a petition to Kean University President Repollet with close to 1,500 signatures from Kean students, alumni and community members. The petition calls for the removal of Anne Evans Estabrook and Dave Gibbons from the university’s Board of Trustees. The petition can still be signed here.
Kean University, March 2, 2021. Photo/Madelyn Hoffman
Estabrook and Gibbons are owners of the Elberon Development Group which has leased the detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey for 27 years. Immigrants have suffered and died while in custody there due to the behavior of the Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) federal agency through for-profit detention company Core Civic.
In the summer of 2020, amidst growing calls to abolish ICE and in response to targeted pressure, Elberon released a statement committing to “end their relationship” with Core Civic. However, 237 days later, there has been no movement on this commitment. Instead, Core Civic has assured its shareholders that the facility will be open through 2027, indicating Elberon’s words last summer were nothing more than an empty promise.
Community activists and Kean University students and alumni signed the petition out of concern about what this means for the students attending the University. Estabrook and Gibbons’ names are displayed prominently throughout the University including above the entrance to the building that houses the office of University President Repollet.
Photo courtesy of Madelyn Hoffman
According to Kean alumni and rally organizer Stacey Callahan, “this stands in stark contrast to the fact that Kean University enrolls the second-most undocumented students of all NJ public colleges. Estabrook and Gibbons cannot make unbiased decisions on behalf of these students while they are profiting from the detention of their friends and families down the road.”
A statement from Sabastian, an immigrant currently held at the Elizabeth Detention Center, was read by another alumni of Kean University. In part, this is what his statement said:
“Our human rights and Constitutional Rights are violated by the private company Core Civic and the medical staff on a daily basis. In this pandemic, Covid-19, we can’t protect ourselves in this center. We didn’t receive any proper clean and new PPE. We don’t have a social distance of 6ft, because the rooms are small and the rooms are crowded […] Medical staff don’t care about us […] We are just a number [...] We immigrants are asking for your help [...] Give us a chance for life, for protection. Show us your power, your humanity, and that you care! The United States was built on immigrants, and now we are held like animals in cages.”
According to a statement developed by organizers, the first death in immigration detention from Covid-19 was a guard who worked at the Elizabeth Detention Center. This is the third recorded death connected to the facility that Gibbons and Estabrook own. Boubacar Bah and Victor Ramirez-Reyes both died while in ICE custody as a result of severe medical neglect while detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center. There have now been 39 total COVID cases in the Elizabeth Detention Center. Elberon must terminate the lease as soon as possible and also create legal aid and reparation funds for the families affected by their profiteering.
Click here for more information about this campaign.
Madelyn Hoffman, a seasoned activist, was director of the Grass-Roots Environmental Organization and director of New Jersey Peace Action. She was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate in New Jersey in 1996. The following year she ran for New Jersey governor as a Green. She also ran as a Green for U.S. Senate in 2018, receiving 25,150 votes, and ran for the same seat again in 2020, receiving 38,288 votes. You can read more about Madelyn's achievements here.