FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Green Party of New Jersey, Young Ecosocialists, Ridgewood for Black Liberation, Party for Socialism and Liberation - New Jersey, Ramsey Alliance for Social Equity, Malaya Movement New Jersey, Sunrise Movement Union County, Anakbayan North Jersey, Sunrise Movement Point Pleasant Beach, #NJAntiWarAgenda, Ridgefield Park 4 Equality, Black Lives Matter Teaneck, Black Lives Matter Hackettstown and Long Valley, Sunrise Movement Bergen County, Sunrise Movement Hunterdon County, Black Lives Matter Bergen County, and the Jobs and Equal Rights Campaign, oppose the two latest bills regulating the presence of ICE detention centers in New Jersey. A5307 and S3361.
While prohibiting the signing of new contracts with ICE or the extension of current contracts, it allows for the 4 detention centers in Northern New Jersey: Hudson County, Essex County, Elizabeth, and Bergen County, to remain open for the length of their current contracts. Nothing in this bill speaks of the need or requirement to shut down the existing facilities. In some cases this would be years and in Hudson County, based on the Commissioners’ November 2020 vote, 10 years! These bills also depend on promises made by New Jersey politicians in regard to the closing of current facilities, along with a promise of not allowing any new facilities to be opened by future law changes. Promises such as these have been made and broken on a regular basis. One needs to look no further than the promise made by the Hudson County Freeholders in November 2018 that they would take two years to find alternative sources of income for the county and close the facility in 2020. Despite hours of testimony by over 100 witnesses calling for the shutdown of the detention center at a Commissioners’ meeting just before Thanksgiving 2020, the Commissioners voted to extend the contract by 10 years.
While we may appreciate the fact that the bill states there will be no additional ICE facilities in this state should it pass (if promises are not broken by future elected officials), it is totally unacceptable for the current ICE facilities to remain open until their current contracts expire and totally inconsistent with the message we’ve promoted so strongly for years -- with increased intensity since early 2020 and the beginning of the pandemic.
We have called for ICE to be abolished and for all those held inside the detention centers to be released immediately because especially during this time of COVID-19, time spent in these detention centers for immigration matters should not be elevated to a potential death sentence. More than 30 people have died in custody within the past 2 years.
Additionally, this bill fails to address other ways Immigrant Customs Enforcement contracts private and public bodies in New Jersey to continue to terrorize members of our communities in other ways besides detention. For example, there is nothing in regard to contracts like those historically held with Middletown and Vineland to use municipal facilities. In Vineland, a town where many migrant workers have settled, this means the Philadelphia Branch of ICE has been able to, for the last few years, travel to Vineland to use the police department’s shooting range, and thereafter target migrants nearby.
Tell those held captive by the state and those who had been on hunger strike that the detention center they are in may remain open for another 5 - 10 years! Tell those being held for a prison term of double, triple or more time than a U.S. citizen might be held for the same offense, that they should be happy that the detention center might close in 10 more years. Tell their families that ICE can still make contracts with local municipalities for non-incarceration purposes. Tell them that the state legislators from the Democratic Party refused to put pressure on other members of the Democratic Party in county government to shut the facilities down immediately and release those detained. We cannot water down our demands to match the timidity and weakness of the Democratic Party. We cannot say “#FreeThemAll” and then say, oh, but not for five or 10 more years!
We are not moved or appeased by hollow victories, not until ICE is abolished, these Concentration Camps are no more, and all the people in ICE Detention are released. The people running these facilities must be held accountable. Until then, our fight continues.
For more information contact: Madelyn Hoffman, Communications Chair of GPNJ, Matthew James Skolar, Chair, Young Ecosocialists - NJ, Justin Pines, Abolitionist Activist from Bergen County, Lily Benavides, Green Party of Morris County.