Vainieri: ‘After Labor Day, we should know what we’re doing with this ICE contract’

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Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Anthony Vainieri (D-8) said that Hudson County government is already exploring possibilities of how to terminate their 10-year agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in an exclusive interview. 

“As far as the ICE contract: we’re not ready to get out of it right now. There’s a lot of things to be looked at … If we can get out of this, how we can get out of this, how we are gonna offset the money that we get, make sure the detainees are safe where they’re going to go,” Vainieri said at the freeholders conference room this afternoon.

“[Also] make sure there’s no layoffs in our correction facility. So the three things that I want to look at as far as the ICE detainee contract: Number 1, make sure that ICE detainees are going somewhere safe and hopefully close.”

Vainieri continued that the Bergen County Correctional Facility is at capacity for immigrant detainees, while Essex County officials have been non-committal on if they’d like to expend their program.

If there are no other jails in North Jersey willing and/or able to take the detainees, they could be transferred to facilities ranging from Orange County, New York to Arizona, Vainieri said.

“Like I always said: my first priority is to make sure the immigrant detainees are safe, that they’re families are there to go see there: we have a great facility, we have a great correctional facility.”

When asked why the dollar amount on the contract has varied anywhere between $18 million and $35 million dollars, Vainieri explained that there is no way to extrapolate that number since the county is paid $120 per day, per detainee, by ICE.

He added that the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny consistently houses between 600 and 800 detainees, based on a conversation he had with Jail Director Ron Edwards.

On the subject of why the freeholder board decided to vote on the contract last month after it had already been labeled as tabled, Vainieri said that most of his colleagues agree that they were in favor of the deal and there was really no reason to wait.

“Most of the freeholders were ready to vote on it, they didn’t really want to wait. So, a freeholder made a motion to carry it over, everybody went along with it. But after that, we met next time and said ‘I don’t know what we’re waiting for, we’re ready to vote on this,'” he recalled.

“Freeholder makes a motion to bring it back on the agenda, second it, roll call, you pass it and we passed it … some freeholders are try to make it political and it’s not fair.”

At that July 12th meeting, Jersey City Freeholders Bill O’Dea (D-2) and Joel Torres (D-4) voted against the measure, while Freeholders Al Cifelli (D-9) and Tilo Rivas (D-6) were absent.

At last week’s marathon meeting, O’Dea made a motion, seconded by Torres, to move the September 13th meeting to Public School No. 11, also known as Martin Luther King, Jr. School, in Jersey City.

While joined in supporting the measure, the resolution failed by a vote of 3-6, with O’Dea calling everyone who voted against measure “lacked courage.”

Vainieri argued that given that the freeholders cast their vote in public session, he didn’t see how anyone could refer to them as cowards.

“I look at it this way: I sat there and voted not to move the meeting in front of a couple hundred people. If I was a coward, or if any of the freeholders were cowards, they would’ve voted to move the meeting,” he said.

” … I didn’t hide anything I said I support the ICE contract right now and there’s other avenues to look at, how to get out of it in a nice, stable, reasonable way that the detainees are not hurt.”