After a Senate vote on the Dream Act, mainly along party lines, we found once again the dream deferred for immigrants – in this case young people who arrived here with their parents and are willing to go to college or join the armed services to gain citizenship. We continue to need a sane policy that provides a proper path to citizenship and border protection. In spite of President Obama’s increased efforts at border enforcement, there has been no movement from Republicans on a path to citizenship. From the Pilgrims onward, America has been nourished by those who came to our land. Today many citizens just demonize them.
In the meantime in NJ immigrants contribute mightily to our state. However, their incarceration is carried out without the rights normally extended to others, and some are mistakenly detained and deported. Friends, family, lawyers and clergy have difficulty visiting them. Their food and medical care is subpar. This results in human rights abuses and inhumane treatment.
Last week it was announced that Essex County is the apparent winner of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) competition to build a new 2,700 person immigrant jail. There were so many problems with treatment of inmates in the New York City ICE Varick Center that they closed the facility. Many of the detainees were transferred to NJ. Soon there will be new cells for even more immigrants from NJ and elsewhere at a remote Newark location adjoining the Essex County Detention Center.
Essex County will not see all of this money either as a private, for-profit company, namely Community Education Centers, or CEC, is said to be involved in the planned expansion. Reform Jersey Now board member and Christie confidant Bill Palatucci is a Senior VP of CEC. This below-the- radar prison company has long held lucrative contracts and a cosy relationship with the state Department of Corrections. These are contracts which could just as easily be held by a broader group of organizations including the non-profit NJAC. The result of DOC actions has been reduced costs for its operations, but little evidence of benefit for the inmates. The same might be expected with a CEC-Essex County deal.
As IRATE-First Friends of Elizabeth says, “Immigrant detention is morally wrong, legally suspect and wasteful of taxpayer funds.” On this Christmas Day let’s include the dreams of immigrants in our thoughts.