This supports a position taken by Jersey City Fulop Mayor Steven Fulop, who has criticized the Board of Freeholders for recently renewing a 10-year, $10 million contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)
The jail currently holds about 400 prisoners and about 800 immigration detainees, some of whom have been housed at the facility as long as three years. Under the new contract, ICE will pay Hudson County $120 per day per detainee.
Although pressured by activists to stop doing business with ICE, the freeholders merely established their own subcommittee to look into issues at the jail, including those involving ICE. But the subcommittee will not report back to the freeholders until after the 60 day opt-out period for cancelling the contract expires.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon said the contract sends a bad message in a county that is considered one of the most progressive and demographically diverse in the nation.
“We have to be leaders in this and push back against federal policies,” he said.
‘Shockwaves of fear’
The resolution demands that the freeholders use the 60-day opt out period to terminate the contract with ICE. The freeholders voted for the renewal on July 12 without actually having seen a copy of the contract.
“ICE’s zero tolerance policies have sent shockwaves of fear through the immigrant communities, worsening relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” the Jersey City resolution said. “ICE agents have repeatedly violated the human rights of immigrants, including alleged sexual and physical assaults, and have been infiltrated by white nationalists, including the New Jersey ICE office.”
Councilman Jermaine Robinson said he has no problem with ICE arresting and deporting immigrants who have been involved with violent crimes.
“For that we need to applaud them,” he said, noting, however, that “hard working” families are also being targeted. “I don’t think they should be treated the same way.”
“The City of Jersey City stands willing to partner with Hudson County to employ any county worker whose job may be a risk if the ICE detention contract is terminated.” – Aug. 15 resolution
Council President Rolando Lavarro said he spoke with County Executive Tom DeGise in early 2017 about this and other issues. At the time, Lavarro said President Donald Trump has just introduced a ban on immigration from some Muslim countries.
Lavarro said his concern was with an ICE program called 287(g) which required county correctional officers to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “flag” any arrested foreign-born individuals brought to the jail for potential deportation.
Under pressure from immigrant rights groups, the county opted out of the 287(g) program.
While 287(g) also existed under President Barack Obama, Lavarro said the problem has been exacerbated by Trump’s “war on immigrants.”
“Under Obama, few people raised questions about these programs,” Lavarro said. “But since then, the federal government has waged war on immigrants, and the current contract with ICE is complicit with that war.”
No public dialogue before freeholder vote
“Hudson County did not provide the public with meaningful dialogue about the [ICE detainee renewal] contract before it was voted on, with Hudson County Freeholders Joel Torres and William O’Dea expressing concern that sufficient time was not provided for review the contract,” the resolution said.
According to county officials, Hudson County’s negotiations with ICE reached an agreement on the contract in May, yet the vote on the contract did not take place until a day time meeting in July.
Activists accused the county of holding the vote at a historically under-attended day time meeting rather than regular evening meetings in May or June.
Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri has defended the renewal, saying it allows detainees to remain close to their families, legal counsel, and other services, rather than have them shipped to more remote detainee centers.
It’s about jobs and revenue
Activists, however, said this is also about county finances. The contract allows the county to offset operational costs and retain staff. If the contract is canceled, the county would either have to lay off employees at the jail or raise taxes to cover the costs.
In a response to the Hoboken’s resolution earlier this month, Vainieri asked if the Hoboken council wanted the county to raise its taxes.
County officials have admitted that the facility is staffed to manage its capacity of 2,000 inmates. Without the detainees, however, the prisoner population plummets to only 400, and layoffs of jail staff would be inevitable.
The Jersey City resolution, however, said the city is prepared to handle some of these issues.
“The City of Jersey City stands willing to partner with Hudson County to employ any county worker whose job may be a risk if the ICE detention contract is terminated,” the resolution said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.