Immigration advocates urge Hudson County freeholders to exit ICE contract before 2020

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Despite it not making the agenda this time around, immigration advocates still urged the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders to exit their deal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before 2020. 

“The reason that we’re not hearing it today is that the freeholders that attended the meetings over the course of the summer, the administration, the county executive’s office, there’s only about three or four of us present, so we knew what was going on,” explained Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri (D-8).

“For me to hand the freeholders an ordinance today [when they] had no idea about the ICE contract, how the path of exit was gonna take place, what revenues would be coming into the county to offset what we would lose: they did not know.”

Last Thursday, hours before the annual fall gala for the Hudson County Democratic Organization, County Executive Tom DeGise announced that the Kearny jail’s agreement with ICE, which allows them to house immigrant detainees, would be phased out by the end of 2020.

At the time, DeGise said the freeholders would be voting on a measure to get the process started, but that didn’t come to fruition. Despite that fact, Vainieri assured the public the board would vote on the legislation at their October 11th meeting.

“This will be on the agenda on October 11th. No ifs, ands, buts about it. Okay? You can read the statement that this guy put on the banner about me: it’s not a scam, it’s not a lie. It’s gonna be on October 11th, but it’s only a plan to exit, we’re not getting out of it.”

Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2), who has vehemently opposed the deal in recent weeks, explained why he was in agreement with Vainieri to pump the brakes.

“There are unresolved issues concerning any, call it what you may, a transition period, a plan to exit, and those issues are yet to be resolved. And until those issues are resolved in a written format, I’m not comfortable with voting on anything.”

Those explanations still did not deter over a dozen members of the public to voice their opinions on why they don’t support the county working with ICE in any fashion.

“After President Trump took office in 2017, and he passed the Muslim ban, the rally at the Jersey City pedestrian plaza, there was thousands of people there, I stood on the stage there … urging the county to withdraw from the 287g program,” recalled Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro.

” … This is not the Obama administration. The focus of this administration is to go after non-criminal offenders here, immigrants who are undocumented … These are unusual times and we can’t treat this like business as usual.”

Hoboken Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour made it clear that she is still angered by the fact that the board approved the renewal of the ICE contract via a “bait and switch” tactic and those officials who voted yes must be held accountable.

“It is disingenuous to have shuttled this contract through on the fly and now, once you’ve realized after the fact that the ICE contract might be a hot topic, you wish to slow things down. How long will it be before we get a fair and open hearing to have this discussion?,” she questioned.

“Are we to wait a year? I’m glad that the plan is to include it on October 11th, but I assure you, we will continue to be here until that is the case. Because the lack of transparency that has happened to date, around this contract, is disturbing.”

While many echoed a similar sentiment saying that Democrats (all nine of the freeholders are Democrats) need to take a stand against Trump and the board needs to be more transparent about their decisions, not everyone was in agreement that the ICE deal has to go.

Jersey City resident Yvonne Balcer chastised the board for caving to political pressure, exclaiming that the work ICE does is essential to keeping residents safe.

“Each freeholder got elected, raised your hand to say you would protect what is written in the constitution. If you vote no, which you have, on this ICE contract, then you have violated your oath and you really should resign,” she said.

“Your job is to protect this country, which means allowing ICE to do its job … it is absolutely immoral for any freeholder to vote no on a contract that reduces $19 million from the budget.”

The overwhelming majority of the meeting streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: