Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee, Follows Senate, Passes Bill to Ban New ICE Detention Contracts Amid Calls for Floor Votes Before Summer Recess
As local detention sites depopulate or move toward closure, the urgency to ban future ICE detention contracts grows in New Jersey.
NEW JERSEY – Wednesday, June 2, 2021 — The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) applauds continued momentum on bill A5207 / S3361 which was voted out of the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee with a 4-3 vote. The legislation would prohibit public and private contractors from entering into, renewing, or expanding ICE detention contracts in New Jersey.
Today’s milestone comes less than two weeks after the bill was voted out of the Senate Law and Public Safety committee and just a month after local counties announced a series of moves to put their sites on a path to closure or depopulation. In response, impacted immigrant New Jerseyans and advocates call on the Legislature to further advance the bill and hold floor votes in both chambers before the end of June. The Senate version has been referred to the Senate Budget & Appropriations, which has an opportunity to meet next week, on June 10th.
“It is not hyperbole to say that New Jersey’s partnership with ICE is deadly. ICE’s retaliation, abuse, and neglect of people held in detention have resulted in infection, permanent injury, and death. Further, ICE detention sidesteps the constitutional guarantee of due process and regularly operates in bad faith to disproportionately entrap people of Color and immigrants in poverty,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “The moral mandate to ban business with ICE grows more urgent with each passing day. While we celebrate today’s release from committee, the legislature must continue to act swiftly in order to guarantee no new contracts are signed in the wake of local closures or wind-downs.”
“This bill to me symbolizes what New Jersey should stand for and is a step forward to end our participation with an inhumane detention system that has caused harm to me and my family and made it extremely hard for me to fight my asylum case. I will never be able to see justice for what I was subjected to in detention, but this bill will bring some small bit of comfort to me and my family,” said Carlos Sierra, First Friends Released Friend & Program Associate, formerly detained in Essex County ICE facility.
Immigrants’ rights advocates applauded the release of A5207 out of Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and urged for swift passage of the legislation before the legislature goes on Summer recess.
“A large part of the work that I do is to speak with the many brave people detained inside various detention facilities. Immigration detention separates families and takes dignity away from detained individuals. It also takes away months and years from people’s lives, exacerbates any mental health issues they might have, and creates new ones for those who don’t. Passing A5207 is a celebrated step forward to stopping the creation of new detention centers and prohibiting the renewal and expansion of current detention agreements. What that means is that more immigrant community members will be home and free if this bill becomes a law,¨ said Banan Abdelrahman, Campaign Coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program.
“There is no reason to subject people to detention just because they are trying to look for a better life for themselves and their families. Detention is cruel, unnecessary and ineffective and has no place in our state or country. Pass A5207 NOW,” urged S. Nadia Hussain, Co-founder of the Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative (BAWDI).
“No matter what you call it, and what fancy new name you can give it, detention separates families. No matter who they are or where they come from, no one should be deported or thrown in facilities with such inhumane conditions because they “are not from here” or “are illegally here”. At the end of the day, this whole country was founded on stolen, Indigenous land and no one can be illegal on stolen land. It’s time for our state and community to do better. Protect our people, protect our communities. Pass A5207.” said Abire Sabbagh, Community Engagement Coordinator at the Palestinian American Community Center.
“We applaud the committee passage of Assembly Bill 5207 and hope to see the bill continue its course successfully, and onto the Governor’s desk. We cannot have state and local authorities concentrate in targeting individuals based on their immigration status. We all know that inhumane agreements with law enforcement agencies only further polarize our communities from the entities that are meant to protect them. We need to put an end to this racially unjust system, and this bill is the way forward”, said Kevin Brown, Vice-president and Director of 32BJ.
“To be a truly fair and welcoming state, New Jersey must fight to end immigration detention and to end the use of state and local resources to support harmful federal immigration enforcement. A5207 represents an important step toward that goal. We thank the members of the Assembly Law and Public Safety committee for approving the bill, and we urge legislative leadership to swiftly advance this bill and hold a full floor vote,” said Ami Kachalia, Campaign Strategist, ACLU-NJ.
The prime sponsors shared the following statements in response to the coalition-led effort to pass the bill today, speaking to the urgency of getting the bill to Governor Murphy’s desk and highlighting the moral need to prioritize basic human rights and dignity in New Jersey.
“The treatment and politicization of immigrants and their families under the Trump administration was shameful, inhumane, anti-American,” said Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Gordon Johnson, author of this legislation. “We are a nation of immigrants and New Jersey, to this day, is a state that prides itself on being a true melting pot of peoples, cultures, and creeds. There is simply no place for the detention of people merely on the basis of their immigration status in this state. Thank you to the members of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee for taking action on this legislation, and thank you to the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, for your tireless advocacy for our underserved immigrant communities.”
“I am encouraged to see this bill moving in both houses of the Legislature. I believe most of us in the Legislature recognize that these ICE detentions harm our communities. I am hopeful that we will be getting this bill to the Governor’s desk soon,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, LD 37, prime sponsor of S3361 in Senate.
Legislative sponsors in the Assembly shared the following statements.
“The support this bill has received has been nothing short of astonishing – thank you to all the grassroots activists and organizers for fighting to push this legislation forward to create a more progressive New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, LD 33, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
“Today’s action by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee reflects our values as a state. We should be celebrating our diversity and immigrant neighbors, including young students and parents and siblings of uniformed service members, rather than uprooting and separating them from their families and communities simply because of their immigration status and subjecting them to imprisonment. It’s time for this measure to advance and get to the Governor’s desk,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, LD 33, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
“Today the General Assembly took an important step forward in ensuring dignity and justice for New Jersey’s immigrant community. We must continue to work to end ICE contracts in New Jersey. Due to the efforts of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today, we are one step closer to making this a reality. New Jersey can and should be a leader in ensuring dignity and justice for immigrants, that begins with ending ICE contracts in our State,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, LD 37, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
“This is another positive step forward. We are getting closer to making this important piece of human rights legislation a reality. Our criminal justice system should never be used as a profit center,” said Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, LD 31, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
“The passage of A5207/S3361 in today’s Assembly Law & Public Safety committee meeting is a sign that our legislators are ready to continue protecting New Jersey’s undocumented population. Immigrants in our state waiting to gain legal status have every right to be treated justly and humanely. Revenue from agreements with federal immigration authorities should not be prioritized over the physical and mental health of those seeking to permanently live in New Jersey. As a proud cosponsor of A5207, along with my legislative partner Assemblyman John McKeon, I urge my colleagues to continue forward progress on this crucial bill,” said Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey, LD 27, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
The above Assembly sponsors were joined by their colleagues in the Senate, who made the following comments.
“Allowing ICE to house detainees in New Jersey jails is a tacit approval of an immigration policy that tears apart families, destabilizes communities and even deports parents of United States citizens. Detainees are denied due process as well as adequate medical treatment. These policies continue the systemic racism of the incarceration of Black and brown people. With the advancement of this bill, New Jersey will join other states in leading the fight to end this form of immigration detention,” said Senator Nia H. Gill, LD 34, sponsor of S3361 in Senate.
“The history of abuse in immigration cases is absolutely appalling and unfortunately New Jersey has done very little to help with these matters until now. This legislation that would bar counties and other local governments from entering into contracts with ICE will help stop the inhumane treatment of these individuals and help create a New Jersey For All,” said Senator Vin Gopal, LD 11, sponsor of S3361 in Senate.
NJAIJ is a statewide coalition of 43 member organizations, representing 150,000 people, that creates and achieves policies that support New Jersey’s immigrants. We uphold the human, civil, and labor rights of all immigrants, whether documented or seeking status, and prioritize keeping families together.