NJ Alliance For Immigrant Justice Launches Fair & Welcoming Platform To Fight for A New Jersey For All
Newark, NJ — March 24, 2021– Today, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) and member organizations launched their Fair and Welcoming “New Jersey For All” Platform. Immigrant residents called on state legislators to “future-proof” the state against cruel and inhumane ICE detention agreements and detangle local law enforcement’s collaboration with federal immigration authorities. They were joined by impacted community members, advocates, and grassroots organizers.
The NJAIJ Fair and Welcoming Platform will:
- Ban new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention contracts, including renewals or expansions.
- Make schools, hospitals, and courthouses safer and make data more secure by updating confidentiality policies and restricting what can be shared with federal immigration authorities.
- Close law enforcement loopholes that entrap immigrant communities by strengthening the Immigrant Trust Directive and making it permanent.
- Remove harmful terms like “alien” from state language so that laws affirm our right to belonging and inclusion.
As part of the launch, NJAIJ released three factsheets on the platform and the bills it includes – the Values Act and S3361/A5207. NJAIJ is calling on the state to prioritize immigrant communities, one of the fastest growing electorates in the state.
“New Jersey leads the nation in its diversity and its percentage of people with immigrant heritage. But despite the number of families who call our state home, New Jersey continues to turn a blind eye to ICE collaboration and entrapment. In New Jersey, all residents should feel safe going to school, fighting for their rights in court, or seeking care at hospitals. Every resident should see themselves included in state language without harmful words like, ‘alien.’ No resident should fear for their safety because their local leaders take dirty money from ICE. We call on the State to pass the Values Act and S3361/A5207 to create a New Jersey For All,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
New Jersey Policy Perspective, released anew data analysis, “Cooperation with ICE Deepens Racial and Economic Disparities in New Jersey”, showing the impact of continued collaboration with ICE and detention facilities on New Jersey residents. The analysis shows that in the last five years, over 15,000 immigrants have been ordered deported following court decisions in New Jersey, including over 4,000 in the 2020 fiscal year.
“All New Jersey residents deserve safety, liberty, and access to opportunity, regardless of where they were born. Yet, federal immigration enforcements’ cruel and inhumane practices violate human rights, harm public health, and deepen racial and economic inequities. It is critical that lawmakers take action to prevent new detention contracts and to establish clear separation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. New Jersey will be stronger when all residents can fully participate in and contribute to our communities without fear,” said Vineeta Kapahi, New Jersey Policy Perspective.
Family members of those detained spoke out and decried law enforcement collaboration with ICE and spoke to the loss of income, loss of a parent in the household, and the chilling effect on accessing essential services due to fear of future immigration consequences.
“I called the police for help with a domestic matter and they arrested me and reported me to ICE. After what happened to me with the local police, I don’t know who to call when I need help. I never want to go back to a detention center and it was clear to me that the police are not here to help the community but to do ICE’s work and continue separating families. An interaction with police should not result in detention,” said Juli, member of Make the Road New Jersey (last name withheld).
“For no good reason, ICE took my husband Jorge away from me and our young children for 16 months before he won his case, and the financial and emotional harm was huge. ICE should not be allowed to operate detention centers in New Jersey and hurt other families,” said Sharon Cajon, a mother of two young children, a resident of Plainfield, NJ and spouse of a formerly detained individual.
“This bill is very important because it would mean the end or alleviation of this pain for so many families… I do not want more families to suffer what mine has suffered so much. NJ does not need to contribute to detention and family separation”, said Noemi Peña, member of American Friends Service Committee
Another member shared her family separation story after her son and spouse who were held in detention facilities in New Jersey. During their detention, her son faced retaliation from officers and dehumanizing strip searches and abuse.
“Noemi’s case is not an isolated one, there are many families like hers. Our organization sees it on a daily basis with our clients. We can’t wait for the federal government to act, because New Jersey families are being separated on a daily basis. The state must protect our communities now. We need change now,” said Gricelda Cortes-Gonzalez, Social Worker, American Friends Service Committee – Immigrant Rights Project, Red Bank, NJ.
NJAIJ member organizations, community leaders, and legal advocates released the following statements in support of the Fair and Welcoming platform and called on the state to go further in its protections.
“Undocumented members of the Bangladeshi community in NJ often feel invisible, and live in constant fear of immigration enforcement, deportation and family separation. 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, ineffective and further sows mistrust between our communities and our government,” said S. Nadia Hussain, Co-Founder, Bangladeshi American Women’s Development Initiative (BAWDI).
“I’m working with friends in immigration detention on a daily basis, I see the hardships immigration enforcement and detention causes on New Jersey families. The Fair and Welcoming platform helps keep our immigrant communities safer while taking a step forward to end the inhumane treatment and conditions of immigration detention centers,” said Jackie Zapata, Program Director, First Friends of NJ & NY.
“Faith in New Jersey members have experienced trauma, fear, and racism due to New Jersey’s chosen role in immigration enforcement. This dehumanizes all of us, leads to over policing in our communities, and allows county governments to commodify Black and brown bodies for the sake of profit. The Fair and Welcoming Platform provides New Jersey the opportunity to begin to honor the inherent worth and dignity of immigrants while providing them a sense of belonging. This is how New Jersey begins to truly love thy neighbor,” said Charlene Walker, Executive Director, Faith in New Jersey.
“New Jersey must build fair and welcoming communities where everyone, regardless of immigration status, can thrive. With the Immigrant Trust Directive, New Jersey has taken important steps to limit local law enforcement involvement in federal immigration enforcement, and the Legislature now has an opportunity to strengthen and codify the Directive and end state complicity in the federal deportation machine once and for all. It’s time to end the fear that immigrants – particularly Black and brown immigrants who are already targeted by our unjust and inequitable criminal legal system – experience when they come into contact with government agencies, including social services departments, schools, and public health authorities. We urge our lawmakers to pass legislation to limit cooperation between local police and ICE and to prevent the continued growth of immigration detention in New Jersey. A New Jersey for all of us is one that protects the rights, dignity, and well-being of all residents,” said Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director, ACLU-NJ.
“There is no place for hate in New Jersey. We condemn any practice that allows for the unlawful detention of undocumented immigrants, family separation, inadequate access to medical care, and ill living conditions. As New Jerseyans, it is our responsibility to lead the nation by being an example of hospitality, generosity and most importantly, empathy. Let’s continue to build a State that is welcoming to all, where new immigrants find opportunities and protection, and gain the freedom to thrive,” said Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ District Director, SEIU Local 32BJ.
Legislative sponsors of bill S-3361/A-5207 to ban new ICE agreements and the renewal and extension of current ICE contracts in New Jersey offered the following statements in support of fair and welcoming policies.
“This legislation was a response to the Trump administration’s abhorrent immigration policies that focused on family separations, child detention, and the amplifying of misery for a desperate population,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. “It’s crucial that America finds a way to address immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees with fairness and dignity, because we in New Jersey are far too proud of our immigrant communities to not stand against such dehumanization,” said Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, Legislative District 37.
“Immigrants and their families are an integral part of our community and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I do not believe there’s a place for ICE detention centers in New Jersey, which is why I sponsored S3361 with my colleague Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. I believe our state is more secure when it is more welcoming. We do not need federal agents deciding who is or isn’t part of our community,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, Legislative District 37.
These sponsors were joined by their colleagues in sharing messages of support for the Fair & Welcoming Platform and joining the call for a “New Jersey For All.”
“As a New Jersey Assemblyman, I have worked with my constituents to build inclusive communities that support every resident, regardless of their immigration status. Alongside grassroots organizations including, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, we will continue to create tangible and pervasive equality through bold legislative policies. As a united community of people standing in solidarity with one another, we shall overcome any challenge,” said Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer, Legislative District 36.
“Thank you to the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, First Friends of New Jersey and New York, and all of the advocates who helped to plan this important event. We are here today in recognition of the work needed to protect and support our immigrant brothers and sisters. We are here today to call for a strong Immigrant Trust Directive, one that ensures immigrant communities feel safe accessing services. We are here today to call for a New Jersey that truly welcomes and supports immigrant communities. I join you in this vision, I am proud to not only be a sponsor of A5207, but also the author of A5416, legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage for undocumented individuals. I am also the proud author of A4848, the Reproductive Freedom Act, which ensures that all New Jersey’s, regardless of their immigration status, can access reproductive healthcare equitably. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that all of our communities have the opportunity to thrive, I commit to working with you to ensure that this vision is brought to fruition. Thank you for your advocacy and together, we will make New Jersey a more welcoming and equitable place for all,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Legislative District 37.
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.