Despite activists protesting in front of his home for the past four nights, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise says he has no plans to cancel the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“As long as they keep marching in front of my house, I hope they’re real proud of trying to terrorize two senior citizens, but as long as they’re doing that, we’ve got nothing to talk about,” DeGise explained.
“In life and in politics, things change, but no one’s given us a good reason to cancel the ICE contract. If they think we’re going to be bullied into a position we don’t agree with, that’s not going to happen.”
Since Thursday night, protesters have demonstrated outside the county executive’s New York Avenue home in the Jersey City Heights, holding signs with phrases such as “Stop Racism Now” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Additionally, chants such as “let our people go,” “free them all,” and “no more prison profiteers” have been prevalent, according to an Instagram video posted last night.
According to their website, No ICE in Hudson County, this group believes protest is their last available option.
“Hudson County residents and families of people impacted by ICE detention have used every available channel to influence local Hudson County Democrats,” their site says.
“At every turn, Hudson County Freeholders and County Executive DeGise have dismissed our efforts. Sustained protest and vigil are the only options these local Democrats have left for us.”
The board of chosen freeholders approved the ICE contract by a vote of 6-3 after 10 hours of discussion at their November 24th meeting, with over nine dedicated to public comment against renewing the contract.
DeGise has the ability to cancel the contract within 30 days, but he says that won’t be considered.
“They’ve crossed too many lines that no decent people should do. This is a legitimate argument that should be settled the way other disagreements are: this is totally unacceptable.”
When asked what discourse he felt would be appropriate here, DeGise said “not this.”
While the county’s top elected leader understands some of the anger around the issue, given that their were plans to get rid of the ICE contract by the end of this year, he pointed out that ongoing litigation in Mercer County – prolonged by the COVID-19 pandemic – eliminated the possibility of housing 300 of their inmates.
That, coupled with the financial woes of the current public health emergency, DeGise said that there were no other alternatives that could be considered.
County officials have also said in recent weeks that the ICE contract will net about $8 million this year, with a total budget of about $736 million, and cancelling it would lead to a tax increase.
The issue has suddenly caused strife among county Dems, with Freeholder Chair Anthony Vainieri pushing back against U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez after they released strongly worded statements against county deals with ICE.