Bergen County ICE Detainees Leave Behind Messages of Fear, Anxiety & Hope Before Being Transferred to Batavia, NY
Hackensack, NJ- The hope that there would be releases and not transfers for the remaining 15 people in ICE detention in the Bergen County Jail were dashed Friday, November 12th as all were moved hundreds of miles away to Batavia, New York.
Just after the stroke of midnight, people were roused from their sleep and told that they were being transferred. At least one person was able to place a call to a family member to let them know what was happening before they were placed in vans and driven through the night, for seven hours, arriving after dawn on Friday morning at the Buffalo Service Processing Center. Several people were able to make calls to volunteers from First Friends of NJ & NY early Friday evening and Saturday to explain what had happened to them. None were able to take any of their personal belongings with them, including paperwork necessary for them to help defend their deportation cases.
For weeks since Bergen County announced that it would be modifying its contract to eliminate ICE detention, they had been in mental and emotional agony about whether or not they would be released, transferred or possibly deported. And for weeks before this mass transfer, the people in ICE detention at the Bergen County Jail have been recording messages to be released. This is some of what they had to say in their own words.
They spoke of the hardship of being separated from their families and the extra burdens this placed on them: “Up until now they stay struggling. And my wife and my four kids is living in the same one bedroom, because they can’t afford to get a apartment for their selves because I’m no longer there to support them. And every time I get on the phone with them, and it’s so very emotional, and my kids always ask me what time I’m coming home.” – Mr. K.
They spoke of the fear and the hardship that transfers further away from their family would bring: “The fear that I’ve been being in this situation, is that my family is going through a lot of crisis right now. My mom is sick. She’s, you know, she’s very ill. She is eighty-two years old, anything can happen. She’s in and out the hospital. It’s the fear of meaning- of not being able to be there by her side, to help her, or being with my daughter or my grandson… It’s really going to take a toll on my family because, you know, it’s gonna be a strain and the distance from, you know, wherever we goin’ at. The whole fear is that I’m hurt. I’m hurt inside. It’s, really a very, you know, a tedious situation where I’m at right now. So, you know, the fear of it did not need me leaving, period. And I would like to get, you know, God’s will and pray that I either- you know, they have the compassion to even to release us, or made a decision to release us to fight our case. But that’s the fear of it.”- Mr. S.
They spoke of the mental and emotional toll that not knowing what would happen to them was having on them: “I don’t know if I’m getting deported or I’m getting released. I mean, it’s putting a poisoning on my kids, on my wife, and on me.”- Mr. K
“It’s like being’ in the dark. We don’t know what’s going on…It’s nerve-racking. You know, they’re times that, you know, I’ll wake up in the morning, you know, shakin’ like, what- what’s going on here?” Mr. S.
They spoke of the hope of being released: “I don’t know what’s exactly happening. I really hope and pray for God that we don’t get transferred to another state where we don’t know nothing about it or anything that what’s gonna happen to us, and we really pray that we be- that we really do be getting released.” Mr. R.
They spoke of freedom: “Freedom, I mean, that’s the most beautiful word that you could always ever say, you know, freedom. I really want to be free and to have my freedom is, the only way is to be free is to get released. That’s the only way. I would be able to be free with my family again. To have my whole for freedom, God willing, when ICE release me. I will be going home. I will be free. I’ll have my freedom. I will be happy. I’ll be satisfied.” Mr. R.
“I can say that freedom means everything that I was deprived from that time being. It means… enjoy my children, hug them and love them. See them growing up spending time with my partner-tell her how much I love her, how much I care for her. You know, build the foundation for our children, you know, solid foundation for their future. Be able to sustain a good source of income to provide for them in a good house. Good shelter for them to be raised and I’ve got a feeling, a feeling of freedom is also being loved.” Mr. N.
We share our friend’s belief that he, and everyone in ICE detention, is loved and uplift his words as our intention for all our friends: “I know that my time is near and either, it could be transferred or released- either. I know that God loves me and He will provide a way for me and my family.” -Mr. N.
While our friends have been transferred further away, there is still hope that they will be released. ICE has the sole discretion to release people in detention and our elected officials have influence over ICE. All our friends deserve to be home, in their communities, surrounded by their families, not incarcerated indefinitely simply because of their immigration status. The struggle is not over until all our friends are free and ICE detention is ended in the United States.