Author Archive: kwilkinson

Calling for change in the immigration detention system in NJ and nationwide

Change.org blogger Lauren Markham, in her post Immigration Detention Designed to Break the Will of Detainees, quotes our report on visiting immigrant detainees in NJ jails.

As stated in the well-known report “Locked Up But Not Forgotten”: “In effect, immigration detention is punishment – not just for the immigrants in detention, but for their families and communities as well.”

She has an action alert calliing on Napolitano to allow contact visits across the board, including mention of the report in the email to Napolitano.  We’ve sent the Secretary the report and heard back on her behalf from Phyllis Coven, ICE’s outreach person, saying they have every intention of opening access to families and community for people in their custody and plan to allow a minimum of one hour for visits, just as soon as the new detention standards come out (they’ve been stalled this summer).  I’m afraid alot of field offices and facilities haven’t gotten the memo.  

Aside from a few facilities shutting down (there are now 270 nationwide instead of the 350 there were a year ago), nothing’s changed, in fact, deportations and detention under Obama has increased and last month ICE signed a new contract with Orange County, CA to house between 850 and 1,400 detainees in two jails there.  I so wanted to be at the county board meeting where they voted to rent the bed space, to the tune of $35 million, and ask the county supervisors if they knew what the staffing costs would be to provide 900 detainees with hour long visits.  The proposal seemed to only include the expenses for building immigration courts in one of the facilities.

Here were some comments from our August 5th press release on the one year anniversary (Aug 6) of Assistant Secretary “Build a Better Mousetrap” Morton’s announcement that ICE would move away from detaining people in criminal settings.

“Instead of seeing improved conditions for immigrant detainees in facilities like Monmouth County jail, we’re seeing more detention beds, people being moved from facility to facility without easy access to counsel or family visits, and ongoing violations of ICE’s own national detention standards,” said Daniel Cummings…

On Monday, the ACLU of Southern California and its partners, including the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project, filed the first class action lawsuit in the country on behalf of mentally ill and mentally disabled detainees who are “left defenseless in a system they cannot comprehend” where, according to the complaint, “the Government has established no procedures for identifying whether a person is ‘incompetent’ in the first instance; no procedures for evaluating the mental health of individuals in immigration proceedings… no system for appointing counsel for those incompetent to represent themselves; and no rules for determining how people subject to prolonged detention as a result of their mental disabilities can be considered for release from incarceration pending resolution of their immigration cases.”

“Assistant Secretary Morton issued a June 30th memo directing field offices not to spend detention resources on vulnerable populations, including the elderly and mentally ill or disabled.  But vulnerable detainees continue to be held in New Jersey jails, including Monmouth County jail,” said Karina Wilkinson

Casa Freehold, New Labor and the Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights are calling on Monmouth County Sheriff Golden to end the Monmouth County contract with ICE.

His number is:  732-431-7139 in case you want to join our call to end detention in Monmouth.

Calling for change in the immigration detention system in NJ and nationwide

Change.org blogger Lauren Markham, in her post Immigration Detention Designed to Break the Will of Detainees, quotes our report on visiting immigrant detainees in NJ jails.

As stated in the well-known report “Locked Up But Not Forgotten”: “In effect, immigration detention is punishment – not just for the immigrants in detention, but for their families and communities as well.”

She has an action alert calliing on Napolitano to allow contact visits across the board, including mention of the report in the email to Napolitano.  We’ve sent the Secretary the report and heard back on her behalf from Phyllis Coven, ICE’s outreach person, saying they have every intention of opening access to families and community for people in their custody and plan to allow a minimum of one hour for visits, just as soon as the new detention standards come out (they’ve been stalled this summer).  I’m afraid alot of field offices and facilities haven’t gotten the memo.  

Aside from a few facilities shutting down (there are now 270 nationwide instead of the 350 there were a year ago), nothing’s changed, in fact, deportations and detention under Obama has increased and last month ICE signed a new contract with Orange County, CA to house between 850 and 1,400 detainees in two jails there.  I so wanted to be at the county board meeting where they voted to rent the bed space, to the tune of $35 million, and ask the county supervisors if they knew what the staffing costs would be to provide 900 detainees with hour long visits.  The proposal seemed to only include the expenses for building immigration courts in one of the facilities.

Here were some comments from our August 5th press release on the one year anniversary (Aug 6) of Assistant Secretary “Build a Better Mousetrap” Morton’s announcement that ICE would move away from detaining people in criminal settings.

“Instead of seeing improved conditions for immigrant detainees in facilities like Monmouth County jail, we’re seeing more detention beds, people being moved from facility to facility without easy access to counsel or family visits, and ongoing violations of ICE’s own national detention standards,” said Daniel Cummings…

On Monday, the ACLU of Southern California and its partners, including the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project, filed the first class action lawsuit in the country on behalf of mentally ill and mentally disabled detainees who are “left defenseless in a system they cannot comprehend” where, according to the complaint, “the Government has established no procedures for identifying whether a person is ‘incompetent’ in the first instance; no procedures for evaluating the mental health of individuals in immigration proceedings… no system for appointing counsel for those incompetent to represent themselves; and no rules for determining how people subject to prolonged detention as a result of their mental disabilities can be considered for release from incarceration pending resolution of their immigration cases.”

“Assistant Secretary Morton issued a June 30th memo directing field offices not to spend detention resources on vulnerable populations, including the elderly and mentally ill or disabled.  But vulnerable detainees continue to be held in New Jersey jails, including Monmouth County jail,” said Karina Wilkinson

Casa Freehold, New Labor and the Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights are calling on Monmouth County Sheriff Golden to end the Monmouth County contract with ICE.

His number is:  732-431-7139 in case you want to join our call to end detention in Monmouth.

Good News for LNG Opponents

Last week, partly due to the Gulf oil spill, one of the 3 companies’ proposing Liquefied Natural Gas ports off the Jersey Shore, withdrew their application, Star Ledger coverage here

In June, Perth Amboy passed a resolution opposing a proposal from Liberty Natural Gas to run 36″ pipelines, buried 3 feed deep, by 2 schools, commuter rail lines, residential developments and oil tank farms!  The Home News got a couple of good quotes:

“It’s right through the heart of the city,” said Michael Keller, the city’s director of economic and community development. “Someday something will happen”…  

The majority of the line would parallel existing transportation and pipeline corridors and also would connect with existing natural gas infrastructure. Keller said the new pipeline off Asbury Park would go around Sandy Hook through the Raritan Bay before coming ashore in Perth Amboy, along railroad tracks at an old junkyard adjacent to the Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School on Second Street. He said the natural gas would travel through a 36-inch pipeline buried 3 feet below ground past the city’s train station, Hidden Village housing development, Edward J. Patten Elementary School and Harbortown housing development, under the Outerbridge Crossing, past the Kinder Morgan industrial property, and past Chevron, Hess and the northeast redevelopment area.

“Three feet down is ridiculous,” said Keller, who also questions if there would be any surveillance of the pipeline. In March 1994, a leak in a 36-inch Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline next to the Durham Wood apartment complex in nearby Edison sent flames shooting into the night sky that were visible from Pennsylvania to New York. Eight apartment buildings were destroyed and many people left homeless. One woman died from a heart attack… [S]aid Perth Amboy Fire Chief David Volk, whose department responded to the Durham Woods explosion. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.” Volk said with the pipeline only three feet underground the possibility of someone, or even a train derailment, splitting it open is real.

In 2003, a natural-gas leak leveled a three-story building on New Brunswick Avenue in Perth Amboy, Volk said… a gas pipeline through Perth Amboy is a “grave concern,” especially since there are many residences near the railroad right-of-way.”It’s an extreme danger. Why throw gasoline onto a fire? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Woodbridge responded by staying on the fence.

John Hagerty, Woodbridge spokesman, said the proposed pipeline would follow the New Jersey Turnpike through parts of Sewaren and Woodbridge proper, but would not have an major impact on the township. “Our Township Council is aware of it. We have yet to take a position,” Hagerty said.

Good News for LNG Opponents

Last week, partly due to the Gulf oil spill, one of the 3 companies’ proposing Liquefied Natural Gas ports off the Jersey Shore, withdrew their application, Star Ledger coverage here

In June, Perth Amboy passed a resolution opposing a proposal from Liberty Natural Gas to run 36″ pipelines, buried 3 feed deep, by 2 schools, commuter rail lines, residential developments and oil tank farms!  The Home News got a couple of good quotes:

“It’s right through the heart of the city,” said Michael Keller, the city’s director of economic and community development. “Someday something will happen”…  

The majority of the line would parallel existing transportation and pipeline corridors and also would connect with existing natural gas infrastructure. Keller said the new pipeline off Asbury Park would go around Sandy Hook through the Raritan Bay before coming ashore in Perth Amboy, along railroad tracks at an old junkyard adjacent to the Robert N. Wilentz Elementary School on Second Street. He said the natural gas would travel through a 36-inch pipeline buried 3 feet below ground past the city’s train station, Hidden Village housing development, Edward J. Patten Elementary School and Harbortown housing development, under the Outerbridge Crossing, past the Kinder Morgan industrial property, and past Chevron, Hess and the northeast redevelopment area.

“Three feet down is ridiculous,” said Keller, who also questions if there would be any surveillance of the pipeline. In March 1994, a leak in a 36-inch Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline next to the Durham Wood apartment complex in nearby Edison sent flames shooting into the night sky that were visible from Pennsylvania to New York. Eight apartment buildings were destroyed and many people left homeless. One woman died from a heart attack… [S]aid Perth Amboy Fire Chief David Volk, whose department responded to the Durham Woods explosion. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.” Volk said with the pipeline only three feet underground the possibility of someone, or even a train derailment, splitting it open is real.

In 2003, a natural-gas leak leveled a three-story building on New Brunswick Avenue in Perth Amboy, Volk said… a gas pipeline through Perth Amboy is a “grave concern,” especially since there are many residences near the railroad right-of-way.”It’s an extreme danger. Why throw gasoline onto a fire? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Woodbridge responded by staying on the fence.

John Hagerty, Woodbridge spokesman, said the proposed pipeline would follow the New Jersey Turnpike through parts of Sewaren and Woodbridge proper, but would not have an major impact on the township. “Our Township Council is aware of it. We have yet to take a position,” Hagerty said.

Say No to LNG! Take Action

Through working with Food & Water I’ve seen a couple of victories on the campaign to stop oil and gas companies from setting up off shore LNG (liquefied natural gas) ports off the Jersey Shore and from bringing gas pipelines through Middlesex County, and now there’s an opportunity to voice support for a bipartisan resolution opposing LNG of the coast of NJ at an upcoming Joint Senate/Assembly Environmental Committee Hearing on Thursday, August 12th, 9:30 to 2pm at the Toms River Municipal Building, 33 Washington Ave, Toms River.  

The resolutions with sponsors and co-sponsors listed are: SR58/AR59

Here’s a sampling of some of the issues from the resolution:

A SENATE RESOLUTION opposing the development of liquefied natural gas facilities offshore of New Jersey…

Construction of a LNG facility will devastate important fish habitat, impact endangered, threatened, and protected species, damage seafloor habitat, destroy vast quantities of marine life when ocean water is used to refill huge emptied tankers with billions of gallons of seawater to replace LNG cargos, and create potential exposure to stronger and more frequent hurricanes, nor’easters, and wind and wave risks; and…The proposed LNG facilities will straddle shipping lanes in the New York/New Jersey Harbor region, the busiest port on the East Coast and third busiest in the country, dramatically affecting shipping traffic patterns when tankers approach and depart the facility, interfering with port traffic, and increasing the risk of shipping accidents; and …

LNG projects will permanently exclude the public from the ocean as vast areas of ocean will be off limits to the public, boaters and fishing vessels;…

This House opposes the development of liquefied natural gas facilities off the New Jersey coast, and supports increased energy efficiency and energy conservation and the promotion of renewable energy technologies and projects.

Action:  Contact these members of the Environmental Commitees that aren’t yet co-sponsoring and ask for their support in opposing LNG:

Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R), District 16  908 526-360 senbateman@njleg.org

Assemblywoman Denise Coyle (R), District 16 908 218-4059

aswcoyle@njleg.org

Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D), District 31 201 536-7851 asmmainor@njleg.org

NY Times Covers our Call for Immigration Detention Reform!

FYI – a report on this, with pictures and in Spanish is here. Great outreach work. – Promoted by Rosi

Thrilled that the report we’ve been working on for 6 months, Locked Up But Not Forgotten is finally out and linked on the NY Times website following Nina Bernstein’s coverage of some of our stories yesterday.  (I wouldn’t have minded if my first name weren’t printed as ‘Karin’.  As manglings of my name go, I prefer Katrina.)

We had supporting statements that weren’t covered — Star Ledger was a no show– from Senator Menendez:

The more sunlight is shone on the conditions behind the walls of our detention centers, the more we can ensure that all of our fellow human beings are treated humanely. I commend these groups for taking the initiative to investigate and compile this important report.

Congressman Payne:

At the end of the day, everyone is a human being who deserves to be treated with fairness and dignity.  When that does not happen, it is imperative that we, as a society, decry the deplorable treatment and sound the clarion call to put a stop to it.  I appreciate these hard-working groups that are giving a voice to the voiceless and calling on all stakeholders to take action against the inhumane treatment of those in detention centers.

and Congressman Holt:

The lack of transparency and access to detainees makes it difficult for them to receive due process.  I thank these New Jersey immigration advocates for their valuable report and recommendations.

After our press conference yesterday in front of Newark ICE, we went up to deliver the report to Newark ICE’s leadership, apparently the Field Office Director Scott Weber is on assignment in DC. To the best we could understand, someone named Corzine (!) was going to come out and accept it. I had to leave, but the rest of the group ended up being escorted out by uniformed officers for ‘demonstrating‘ because a few people had the printed ‘No one is illegal’ signs.  They had to just leave the report at the front desk. Amy Gottlieb of AFSC, discussed that briefly (right after the oil spill coverage) on wbai Thursday Apr 29 6pm evening news, but the reporters really s/have been there for that, or at least a photographer!

I’m learning way more than I ever wanted to this week about how free speech rights can be curtailed in federal buildings and county jails.

Hudson Jail Hunger Strike Among Immigrant Detainees Over Phone Charges

Nina Bernstein of the NY Times hits the nail on the head in her article describing a hunger strike in Hudson County jail among immigrant detainees, recently moved into Hudson after the closure of Manhattan’s Varick Street detention center. Communication with lawyers, family and friends is difficult, if not impossible, and they are being gouged by phone charges.

Move Across Hudson Further Isolates Immigration Detainees

When federal authorities shut down New York City’s only immigration detention center last month, and sent most of its detainees to a county jail in New Jersey over protests by their advocates, Obama administration officials stressed that the jail was only a short drive from the city. But under a contract with a private telephone company, calls to detainees’ families and lawyers back in New York are decidedly long distance. The result is a 800 percent increase in the cost of a call, to more than 89 cents a minute, in a phone system so cumbersome that detainees say it impedes their ability to contest deportation or contact relatives. In protest, the detainees have sent appeals for help to the American Bar Association, signed by more than 180 detainees, and have threatened a hunger strike. They cite exorbitant telephone costs as their central grievance, but also complain of poor health care, confiscation of legal documents and mistreatment by guards at the jail, the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny.

The county response is carefully phrased (bolding mine):

No one is unwilling to listen to these concerns and to make sure that detainees are treated with respect and dignity,” said James Kennelly, a spokesman for Hudson County and the jail. “We take the care and custody of the detainees very seriously.”

This same spokesman told the Jersey Journal on March 1st in response to our complaints over a 90 day update rule for visitors lists – the rule delayed by months visits to our former Middlesex detainees and prevented us from visiting some of the detainees at all:

That was clearly miscommunication that we regret,” said county spokesman Jim Kennelly about the 90-day message. “We don’t want anyone in the detainee population or advocates for them thinking that we are trying to limit their access.”

We weren’t just thinking they were trying to limit our access.  Our access was very clearly limited.  They claim they’ve stopped limiting the detainees’ lists to 5 visitors. And that was the part I got to respond to, without seeing his exact quote first:

“Hudson County jail realized how arbitrary and unjust it was to limit detainees to visiting lists of five people,” said Karina Wilkinson, co-founder of Middlesex County Coalition for Immigration Rights. “That is a small piece of a huge problem. Immigrant detainees continue to be denied access to the community, lawyers and family.”

And if you weren’t born here, or can’t prove it, beware of which side of the street you ride your bike on, from the Times article.  It can mean life or death ICE issued press releases on two more deaths in detention in the last 5 days, a 36 year old Liberian woman and a 68 year old Guatemalan. Remind me why we’re detaining 68 year old men in detention centers with inadequate medical care?

One detainee who signed the petition is Orville Wayne Allen, 47, a longtime New York State resident who has spent more than 19 months in immigration custody without seeing an immigration judge, his fiancée, Desiree Williams, said. When a police officer in Mount Vernon stopped him for riding a bicycle on the wrong side of a street in 2008, she said, a database check turned up an order of deportation in absentia from the 1980s, something a lawyer had supposedly resolved years before.

Ms. Williams, who works weekdays, has not seen him since he was transferred last month, because the jail allows only weekday visits.

ICE detention standards clearly provide for weekend and holiday visits.  They are just unwilling to impose these standards on the county jails, even while they are paying over $12 million into Hudson county coffers, of federal tax dollars that could be better spent, if ICE would just review on a case by case basis who actually poses a flight risk or danger.  Mandatory detention has to end.  For more info about the national campaign, including about a hunger strike in Texas, go to the Dignity Not Detention website.

Immigration Reform – Dignity Not Detention Campaign Rollout, Spotlight on Hudson

This is a diary from this weekend, with an interesting conversation going on in the comments. Jump in at will. – – promoted by Rosi

Hudson County Jail is getting national attention.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Jan 12th that it would close the 300 bed detention center in Manhattan, Varick St and move them to “another facility in the NY metropolitan area”, because Varick didn’t meet their standards for outdoor exercise and visitation.  As if any jail in New Jersey meets ICE’s detention standards. Oh yeah, and because $250 per night (that was going to an Alaskan Indian tribe) was twice what Hudson charges, $111 per night.  Think of the cost savings (if you do, you will find out that that saves less than 1% of the $1.7 billion budgeted last year for custody operations).  NY and NJ advocates, as Bill Orr pointed out here, are calling for review of who needs to be in detention.  We are at a record number of over 32,000 people being detained each night.

NY/NJ advocates held a press conference on Thursday as part of the rollout of the national Detention Watch Network’s Dignity Not Detention campaign.

Alix Nguefuck of the American Friend Service Committee, Newark spoke about the issue of transfers, which we’ve seen increased numbers of in NJ, because of the closure of Middlesex on Oct 1, which I wrote about at the time.  Some of the detainees we used to visit have been transferred up to 3 or 4 times between Essex, Hudson and Monmouth since Oct!

Who will the next Middlesex Co. Sheriff be?

Could it be that Middlesex Dems are finally starting to clean house?  In the wake of $1 million settlement by the county in a sexual harrassment lawsuit, Sheriff Joe Spicuzzo announced that he won’t run for his seat after being sheriff for nearly 30 years.  Politicker NJ points out that if former sheriff’s officer and current Freeholder Millie Scott were to gain the seat, she would be the first African American woman sheriff in NJ.

I wonder how the women in the lawsuit, who are still in the sheriff’s office, would like having Millie Scott as their boss?  She had to come up through the ranks in a department with an entrenched sexist culture.  It couldn’t have been easy.  She’s a woman of few words, so I don’t expect to hear from her on how it was for her, though I admit, I’m curious.

As I said in my diary about this the other day, it seems the ‘Boys will be boys’ attitude isn’t flying any more in Middlesex.  This is saving Wisniewski a big headache.  And if he’s still looking for advice, I’d say keep on cleaning house.

 

Middlesex County settles for $1M over harrassment in the Sheriff’s office, more advice to Chair

Promoted by Rosi. I’m sending the url of this diary to Chairman Wisniewski’s office to see if he would like to comment, as he has in the diary he posted Monday asking for advice.

The Star Ledger reported that Middlesex County is settling for $1 million in a lawsuit filed by 5 female sheriff’s officers.  County Sheriff and Democratic County Chair Spicuzzo said last month that he’s still running for his 10th term as sheriff.

He was re-elected Dem County Chair last June.

I guess what we’re seeing is that the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude no longer flies.

In the suit, the five officers alleged they were the targets of “pervasive and regular harassment” from the day they were hired. Accusations were made against Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo and his then Undersheriff Angelo Falcone among other ranking officers. The women alleged they were subjected to sexual propositions, innuendo, exposure to sexually explicit material and sexually derogatory language…

How do you think the settlement will show in the county budget? I’m definitely going to have stop by and get a copy of the budget, which is being voted on tomorrow, to see how our new Freeholder Director Rafano plans to close the budget gaps.  It’s going to be a tight one, also including the loss of $5 million from doing the right thing and canceling the contract to house immigrant detainees in the jail.

And there’s another lawsuit still out there:

A separate lawsuit, filed by two former women sheriff’s officers claiming harassment — Joan Ivana and Angel Jazikoff — is still pending in federal court… In their suit filed by Garrigan, the women claim a hostile work environment affected their mental and physical health. Garrigan contends Ivana was fired in retaliation for the suit. Their suit claims, among other allegations, that Jazikoff complained Officer Robert Landis exposed himself to her in front of other male officers on Aug. 31, 2001… Ivana alleges she was “subjected to constant, continuous and pervasive comments of an offensive and sexual nature.”

Wisniewski, are you still wanting advice?  As I just said in the comments of your ‘I want advice‘ diary, we need more diversity, and we need to clean house in Middlesex county or the Democrats will continue lose seats around the county. Even though the countywide positions are still all in Democratic party hands, we’ve lost 25 seats over the last 3 years and couldn’t even hold the county for Corzine.  Reform is not a luxury, it is an imperative.