Human Rights Advocates Denounce Expansion of Flawed Immigration Detention System in Essex: Calling for Community Oversight, Government Accountability, a Rollback of New Contract with ICE and an End to Mandatory Detention
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2011
Contacts: Amy Gottlieb, American Friends Service Committee, 917-494-6415
Karina Wilkinson, Middlesex Co. Coalition for Immigrant Rights, 310-980-0362
Event Time: Tuesday September 27th 2011 at 11am
Event Location: Lincoln Statue in front of Hall of Records (465 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd) at corner of Springfield Ave. and Market St. in Newark
Newark, NJ – New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees* (NJAID) will hold a press conference calling for a rollback of the newly signed contract between Essex County and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and added government accountability for the immigrant detention system in Essex County. The press conference comes at the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, a law that dramatically expanded the use of mandatory detention for immigrants and led to massive deportations, tearing families and communities apart.
“The concept of detaining people on civil charges without a right to bond or parole goes counter to our understanding of justice and protections of human rights. The detention and deportation system has failed immigrant communities miserably, but could easily be fixed in part by eliminating any mandatory detention provisions,” said Silky Shah, Detention Watch Network.
NJAID is deeply concerned about numerous complaints from immigrant detainees and advocates regarding Essex County facilities. The complaints filed include refusal of entry to legal counsel, interpreters and expert witnesses; arbitrary restrictions on family and community visitation; and lack of access to religious clergy. There is also growing concern with health issues as the required outdoor recreation area is adjacent to a toxic waste site.
Concerns increased with the expansion of the detention system through the September 7 ICE contract approved by the Freeholders. The total number of detainees in Essex County Jail and Delaney Hall will increase to 1250. Delaney Hall is a facility operated by Community Education Centers, a private corporation. Expansion without addressing the human rights violations may prove fatal: since late 2003, over 110 people have died in immigration detention centers throughout the United States. Members of the community have been showing their concern as well, since September over 1600 signatures have been collected on a petition on Change.org to revoke the contract with ICE.
“ICE has agreed to maintain an average daily population of 700 detainees in Essex County jail, a jail that arbitrarily refuses access to family, clergy and attorneys,” said Karina Wilkinson, Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights, a member group of NJAID. “We have seen no improvement or increased cooperation under the new contract, only more promises of reform.”
Human rights advocates have voiced concerns about detainee conditions at Freeholder meetings since last December. Penal Committee chair and Freeholder Ralph Caputo once offered to include advocates in an oversight committee to review the issues raised. However, no such review has occurred. Freeholders have told NJAID that oversight is an ICE responsibility. “This is shirking their responsibility to the people who are now in the county’s custody” said Ed Martone, Director of Public Education and Policy for the NJ Association on Correction. “They do have complete control over the conditions in their own jail.”
This press conference is leading up to a national day of action, which is part of the “Dignity, Not Detention: Preserving Human Rights and Restoring Justice,” campaign led by the Detention Watch Network. The campaign calls for an end to the human rights abuses in detention centers, the restoration of due process in the enforcement of immigration laws, and the implementation of cost saving, community-based alternatives to detention. A local action called “Redefining Cruel and Unusual: Indefinite Detention Amid Toxic Waste” is scheduled for October 9th in Newark.
*The NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees is a coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union- New Jersey; American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Immigrant Rights Program; Casa de Esperanza; Casa Freehold; the Episcopal Immigration Network; IRATE & First Friends; Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry in NJ; NJ Association on Correction; NJ Forum for Human Rights; Pax Christi NJ; Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; People’s Organization for Progress, Bergen County Branch; the Reformed Church of Highland Park; Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Montclair