By Hector O. Oseguera Jr.
The story of ICE in Hudson County is long but truthfully isn’t all that complex. It’s an episode that’s claimed the political life of one former County Commissioner, received the ACLU’s attention, and brutalized countless lives within the confines of the County jail. At its core, it’s a story of failed leadership, feudal lords who are stubbornly disconnected from the people they represent.
Tellings of Hudson’s ICE contract glaze over the back-and-forth and mixed signals from County officials since 2018. With Trump in office, the County felt comfortable coming out against the contract, falsely claiming that they sought to exit, knowing that a Trump administration would carry on its ruthless deportation machine regardless of what Hudson County officials did. This would keep their lucrative contract intact while pandering to the people whose attention had turned to ICE’s inhumanity. Yet, despite public statements about a “path to
Hector O. Oseguera Jr.
(Photo Credit: Hector O. Oseguera Jr.)
exit” and sustained public activism, the County Commissioners voted to renew the contract in a 6-3 vote occurring in 2018. Joel Torres would pay a price for his refusal to play the game when the County Demcoratic Organization stripped him of the Line. He would ultimately choose to not seek re-election in 2020.
When ultimately 2020 rolled around, and Trump’s prospects declined, County officials started singing a new tune. Attempting to keep the ICE money flowing, the County Executive said that he expected to be able to “work with” Biden on immigration. This was clearly a signal that the contract would be renewed, and the same six Commissioners that had voted in 2018 voted for a 10-year renewal in 2020.
Public sentiment has been the same all the way through. Every time this contract comes up (and many times even when it doesn’t) the public has maintained that the revenue from the contracts is morally stained blood money that comes from the dehumanization of others. We’ve been told that those in detention wish to remain, that the revenue is necessary to avoid taxes, and that those detained are criminals who are paying their debt to society.
In May 2021, all those justifications have been proven false. The County has finally come to the moral decision, and is apparently seeking to end its contract with ICE. While it’s certainly a welcome change, this is where the public has been for years. The County’s brazen support for this contract has drawn national rebuke. The County Commissioner Chairman is notoriously known for his disrespect and animus for those who have been organizing to end the ICE contract. While the County is coming along to the right decision, many are left wondering what prevented this from occurring years ago. Had County officials taken the time to listen to their constituents, the ICE contract would already be a thing of the past. When this story ends, Hudson County will have exited the ICE contract. Hopefully County officials learn to re-engage community advocates and ensure this political debacle is never repeated.
Editor's Note: Born in Hoboken, and raised in West New York, Hector O. Oseguera Jr. is a life-long Hudson County resident and Anti-Money Laundering Specialist who campaigned to represent New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District in the 2020 Democratic Primary.