At fundraiser, Romano faces protesters still angry over renewal of ICE contract


One week after the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders renewed their contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5) encountered protesters who were still angry about the vote during a fundraiser last night.

“No justice no peace, f*** these racist ass police!” and “No ICE, no cops, no KKK, no fascist USA!” were a couple prominent chants heard outside Hoboken’s infamous Malibu Diner from around 25 to 30 people who were steadfast on having their voices heard.

The outspoken group drew a response from the Hoboken Police Department and Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, though no one attempted to create a conflict with law enforcement.

While Romano had planned a holiday-themed fundraiser weeks ago, the timing proved to be less than ideal due to the ICE contract vote took place just one week prior – which lasted for over 10 hours due to a robust public portion where everyone spoke out against the deal.

Romano, a retired Hoboken police captain, was one of the six freeholders who voted in favor of the agreement – which has been on the books in some form since 1996 – and may now run all the way through 2030.

Speaking exclusively with HCV, the freeholder, who also represents about half of the Jersey City Heights, appeared surprised by the latest turn of events, but supported the right to protest as long as it remains “orderly and respectful.”

Despite the controversy that has erupted since last week, Romano was clear that he has no regrets over voting the way that he did.

“The county and the freeholders, both branches, feel that we’d like to do the right thing for the detainees … Different members of the clergy, legal profession, and families would like to keep the detainees here so that they’re not transferred to somewhere else where they don’t know where they are,” he began.

“The important thing is, to understand too, is that the detainees we have are from New York and that they’ve all been sentenced or committed a very serious crime.”

Romano appeared to be referring to a “memo” that came from the county executive’s office last week, that indicated that the 93 detainees were accused of 87 “criminal” acts, ranging from illegal entry and “immigration” to sexual assault and statutory rape.

At the meeting, Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2), who voted no on the ICE contract, pushed back on the list, stating that 95 percent of the detainees “have already paid their debt to society.”

When asked about constituents who felt that their voice was ignored and are still angry about it today, Romano indicated that the board has nine freeholders, many naysayers don’t live in this area, and several arguments against ICE were based on misinformation.

“There’s nine freeholders, obviously six of them felt strongly about the vote. A lot of people that checked in, called in to the meeting aren’t from the area. The one’s that did feel that way are from Hoboken and Jersey City, but there’s no understanding,” he asserted.

“There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the way detainees are treated that just isn’t true: they are treated as human beings. Our corrections officers are very respectful, our medical plan and coverages we have for the inmates are very good as far as their health issues.”

Romano concluded that he planned this fundraiser long in advance since he always hosts an event during the end-of-year holiday season and was conscious of COVID-19 guidelines: with patrons wearing masks in an open, outdoor tent.

“We respect the social distancing guidelines, which obviously the protesters don’t, as you can see the tent has no roof. It’s small holiday get together, we’re not looking for a large crowd and I appreciate all the supporters who came.”

Freeholder Chair Anthony Vainieri (D-8), who curtsied as he was greeted with a “Shame!” chant as he entered, and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s Chief of Staff Craig Guy, were among the 40 or so attendees.

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  1. Maybe Romano should offer his AFFORDABLE Marineview apartment to a detainee instead of squatting a place for himself!
    He owns his own market rate apartments and could easily go live in one.

  2. I was there, and the protestors kept their masks on the entire time, whereas the folks in the tent did not– that was pretty clear if you were there. “Decent healthcare,” “respectful captors (who bring COVID into the cage system),” and “no maggots in the food now” are NOT reasons to indefinitely detain people who have done their time. Nobody should be in these inhumane camps. So disappointed by Hudson County.