Activists, elected leaders rally against ICE contract outside of Hudson County jail

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Activists and elected leaders teamed up to hold a rally against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) outside the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny this evening.

“Defund hate, defund fear, immigrants are welcome here!” was one of several chants that rang out in front of the county jail, located at 30-35 Hackensack Ave., this afternoon.

The Hudson County Board of Commissioners (technically still freeholders) extended their deal with ICE for up to another decade at their November 24th meeting after over 10 hours of public comment, the majority of which was spent listen to the public speak out against it.

The West Hudson location was the final stop of the day for the “Freedom Caravan,” which began Tuesday with a trek to Delaware, President-Elect Joe Biden’s home state, calling for a deportation moratorium and an easier path to citizenship for roughly 11 million undocumented people nationwide.

Make the Road New Jersey organizer Nedia Morsy, joined by members of other groups such as Solidarity Jersey City, the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, and the Northern New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America, led the program before handing the mega phone off to Kason Little.

“We have a team calling for the abolition of ICE: we know ICE is no savior in our community. In fact, we know ICE was created to just destroy us,” Little, the founder of the Black Lives Matter group in Elizabeth, said.

“We know why the county executive won’t do the right thing and we’re here to say that no matter what the considerations, families deserve to be free, people deserve to be together … When Hudson County Correctional becomes a hot bed for COVID, the only just thing to do is free the detainees,” said Progressive Democrats of Hudson County members Hector Oseguera.

He was one of four people arrested for contempt as the result of protesting in front of County Executive Tom DeGise’s New York Avenue home last week.

Hours earlier, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski granted temporary restraints against protests in front of DeGise’s home, which included limiting actions to 10 people or less, for only one hour – between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. – every two weeks.

Oseguera noted during a live interview last week that the ACLU had been retained to represent him, the other arrestees, and the defendants in the case.

While the case isn’t expected scheduled to be revisited until December 23rd, ACLU attorney Jeanne LoCicero argued in a letter to Jablonski that his decision “infringes on the constitutional rights of Hudson County residents to freely assemble and express themselves.”

County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2), who voted no for renewing the county’s deal with ICE last month, as well as in 2018, said that he had pitched an idea where the county would no longer accept new detainees, but his colleagues weren’t interested.

“We need to keep up the fight. We need to keeping letting people know, let people understand, that we need to get out of this business … Our two U.S. senators understand it, we need to make our county officials understand it.”

Additionally, Jersey City Councilmen Rolando Lavarro and James Solomon expressed disdain over the county’s insistence to continue working with ICE.

“This contract is a stain on Jersey City and Hudson County. As the most diverse city in the entire nation, a city of over 40 percent immigrants in Jersey City, this contract … is abhorrent,” Lavarro exclaimed.

“At the end of the day, they can’t change the facts on the ground. The reality is they are profiting, and making all of us as residents of Hudson County, profit off of the immoral, unethical detention of human beings,” Solomon said.

Hoboken 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen added that given the county’s budget is around $725 million, the few million dollars gained by continuing to deal with ICE doesn’t make much fiscal sense.

” … To take that money for detaining, criminalizing asylees who want to make a better life for themselves in this country: that is wrong, that is wrong.”

New Jersey Working Families State Director Sue Altman, who said county officials “represented New Jersey politics at its worst” the day after the contract was renewed, reaffirmed her support for the cause and commended the efforts of everyone involved.

“Working Families stands firmly and strongly behind this effort in Hudson County, and Bergen County, to close down these inhumane prisons – this is a human rights violation that absolutely should not be happening here on our watch in New Jersey.”

The final speaker was Amy Torres, of the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, who read a statement from Joelle Eliza Lingat, an attorney for American Friends Services Committee.

“We are here because we believe that no one, regardless of their immigration status, or criminal convictions, should be kept in a cage. The conditions at this facility are horrendous and we somberly recall the period when our friends inside were dying – one after the other.”

While DeGise has been adamant that he has no plans to rescind the ICE agreement, that hasn’t prevented further dialogue on this matter, with last week’s freeholder meeting lasting for five-and-a-half hours.