The Hudson County Correctional Facility in New Jersey says it will no longer detain people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Documented reports. Local officials had expressed openness to ending the county’s agreement with ICE this past spring, though no final steps had been taken. But this past Friday, “[t]he county officially informed ICE of its decision to end the contract by email,” the report said.
Advocates like Detention Watch Network executive director Silky Shah celebrated the potential news, saying “local organized and sustained resistance was key to shifting the conditions for ending the contract.” Under reported terms, the roughly 40 immigrants currently detained at Hudson County will be moved by Nov. 1.
“The county faced pressure from activists and residents at commissioners meetings to not renew the contract due to inhumane conditions at the facility,” the Hudson Reporter said. County officials had late last year extended the contract for another decade. “Not one of the estimated 200 public speakers spoke in support of the contract,” Hudson Reporter said at the time. But then in April, county officials said they’d be open to ending it. NJ.com reported that the county makes $120 per detained immigrant from ICE.
Should county officials keep their word about cutting ties with ICE—they “have reversed such promises before,” reporter Matt Katz noted—Shah wrote the fight moves on to making sure detained immigrants are released instead of shuffled around to another harmful detention site, “like the potential ICE expansion at the 1800-bed Moshannon Valley GEO Group prison in PA.” ICE has every ability to release detained immigrants, but officials have instead made a decision to transfer them elsewhere, often without one notification to their attorneys and loved ones. ICE has also transferred detained immigrants knowing very well that this practice has added to the novel coronavirus pandemic caseload.
“Every day ICE abducts people from their homes, their workplaces, their communities,” Movimiento Cosecha organizer Haydi Torres said following a protest of one “ICE black site” in the state. “Every day ICE transfers people in detention in the dead of night from one location to another, without telling people why or where they are going, without notifying family or lawyers.” The Essex County Correctional Center said in April that it would be ending its contract of more than a decade, but instead of releasing detained immigrants, officials transferred them in total secrecy.
Gov. Phil Murphy last month signed a new law that makes New Jersey the fifth state in the nation to severely limit or outright ban federal immigration detention. But as Murphy stalled on signing the legislation, private prison profiteer CoreCivic and ICE took advantage of that window and renewed a contract for the windowless Elizabeth Detention Center until 2023. Documented reports show that the other facility still detaining people for ICE is Bergen County Jail, which is currently detaining 27 immigrants. It’s not set to increase that number. Notably, this is also the site where the first immigrant to test positive for COVID-19 while in ICE custody had been held.
“[E]nding ICE contracts is in fact possible even when there is a 10 year contract in place,” Shah continued, further warning that “just because an ICE contract ends it doesn’t mean the jail closes and already the county has said the beds could be used by the US Marshals for federal pre-trial detention.”
“The brutality and rancor of Hudson County Commissioner’s 2020 contract renewal is still fresh on everyone’s mind,” New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice executive director Amy Torres told Documented. “That’s why this announcement—which comes just days after the State banned new ICE detention deals — is such a major win for the immigrant justice movement. The attention now turns to our Senators and Congressional leaders to push ICE for releases so that people currently detained can fight their cases from home and in the care of community.”
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