A coalition of activists held an anti-ICE vigil outside Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) Jersey City office this afternoon, calling for the release of New Jersey detainees.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“We both want to compliment Senator Menendez and insist that he do more and that our other elected officials step up,” John Moscow, of the Northern New Jersey Sanctuary Coalition, noted of the location.
“Senator Menendez was right to call New Jersey’s ICE contracts blood money,” he said.
Moscow continued that they want Menendez to oppose the transfer of detainees outside New Jersey actively and to call for an end to Bergen County’s contract with ICE.
“We want people to be released into their communities … This is absolutely intolerable. It is immoral. It is unethical, and it has to stop.”
“They’re in the situation that they’re in many cases because of the United States’ policies. The wealth of the United States has been based on slavery and oppression of African Americans and the taking of Native American land,” he said.
Moscow specifically cited Guatemala, where the United States backed a right-wing coup against its socialist government, and El Salvador, where the United States backed a military dictatorship versus socialists.
Serges Demefack, of the American Friends Service Committee, a branch of the Quakers, criticized the treatment of Haitians seeking to enter the United States on the Texas border who were being treated poorly and being whipped by border agents on horses.
“This is something we have seen time and time again in this country. We want to put an end to the slave catcher mentality,”
He criticized President Joe Biden’s response to Haitians seeking to enter the country.
Demefack also referenced an ACLU report that said there are over 100 hunger strikes in detention centers in 27 states, including New Jersey.
“It is the frustration of people detained not because they are criminals but because they come to this country asking for asylum,” she said.
New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice Executive Director Amy Torres detailed how New Jersey became the first state on the East Coast to ban future ICE detentions after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill into law last month.
“It grew out of the local shutdown fights,” she said, noting many have fought for years on the issue, including here in Hudson who only recently said they’d be phasing out their contract with ICE this fall.
Hudson County renewed their contract with ICE for 10 years back in November despite a groundswell of opposition and have just recently announced they’d be getting out of the deal this fall.
Torres asserted that ICE “masquerades as law enforcement, it masquerades as public safety and uses the worst racist, xenophobic, white supremacist tropes to punish and destroy families and communities.”
“We must take this fight to the Biden Administration,” she further stated, accusing them of actively recurring agents from White supremacist groups and the Ku Klux Klan.
“They’re incarcerating people for profit … people as units of profit to be bought and sold and traded. We should not incarcerate anybody for revenue,” said Kathy O’Leary, a member of Pax Christi New Jersey.
She also criticized the re-entry program proposed as an alternative to the ICE contract as a source of revenue for Hudson County since it would maintain an inmate population in their county correctional facility in Kearny.
The program would have Hudson County jail specifically hold prisoners who need treatment for addiction and female prisoners from the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, which was under scrutiny after the guards mistreated the prisoners and will be closed.
She said that by taking people from far away, the Hudson County Board of Commissioners are contradicting their stated desire to keep ICE detainees close to their families and lawyers.
She called for Booker and Menendez to support a bill pending before the United States Congress, HR 536, which would end mandatory detention.
On Tuesday, the Garden State’s two U.S. senators penned a letter to Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson asking for the release of NJ detainees “who do not meet existing ICE enforcement and removal priorities.”
Editor’s note: Daniel Ulloa is the vice president of communications for the Latino Action Network, a group that has previously spoken out against ICE detention.