“County governments controlled entirely by Democrats in the most liberal parts of New Jersey are making a windfall off of President Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement, collecting $6 million a month from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants in its county jails.” – Matt Katz (WNYC)
Jim Tedesco, the Democratic Bergen County Executive, called Trump’s policies “disgraceful and un-American,” but that has not stopped him and the Freeholders from accepting payment of $110 per detainee, per day with an average payment over $1 Million per month since 2015. Essex County, where Executive Joseph DiVincenzo was once described as the “Jack Welsh of correctional facilities” for monetizing inmates, has received an average of $2.8 Million per month since 2015. Hudson County has been receiving almost $2 Milliion per month and is in the midst of finalizing a new contract. According to City Lab, ICE’s payments to these three jurisdictions for immigrant detention increased by 46 percent between 2015 and 2018.
Following NJ’s 2017 legislation which allowed far more low risk people to not have to pay bail, the jail population of inmates awaiting criminal court hearings has decreased while the population of immigrants has increased significantly. At all three county facilities most residents are now immigrants waiting for deportation hearings. According to City Lab, Essex and Hudson hold the the second and third highest average of detainees held for ICE in the country. Included now are parents separated from children at the border.
Those held by ICE at these jails include asylum seekers, who should not be considered as criminals and under the Obama administration were released to the public with a date for a court hearing. Following a February US Supreme Court ruling and other rulings, allowing refugee seekers to be incarcerated, other court cases are contesting this somewhat muddled issue. These people seeking asylum can often spend over a year in jail awaiting a court to resolve their individual cases.
Local officials view the immigrants as a source of revenue that helps to control property taxes. However, there are some things that money should not be used to buy. Cashing in on detaining immigrants, particularly those seeking asylum, is reprehensible.
Another key problem is the deplorable conditions within these facilities. Because of my involvement with three different organizations, I have visited on numerous occasions all three of these facilities. The Newark Social/Medical organization NJCRI, from which I retired, has long held a contract with the Bergen County facility allowing staff to provide social services to the now majority immigrant inmates.
There has been a litany of complaints against these three facilities, including poor medical care, a high level of suicides, dirty water and raw/spoiled food and impediments to visitors wanting to meet with inmates. In February there were protests against “maggots and squalor for ICE detainees at inhumane NJ. jails.” “There are no days that I don’t cry here,” an immigrant woman said.
There have been many other protest actions against these counties. On July 5, Essex County sheriff’s officers arrested eight members of the organizing group, Resist the Deportation Machine. (See photo on the left.)
Governor Murphy campaigned on the promise of following California’s lead and enacting “sanctuary” legislation – limiting the cooperation of localities with federal immigration authorities. He appears to be serious about the matter, but so far that has not stopped counties from embracing this “blood money,” so injurious for incarcerated immigrants. These supposedly liberal counties can no longer claim a moral high ground, and instead are only aiding and abetting Trump’s nasty anti-immigration policies.