Reps. Menendez, Watson Coleman, Kim Send Letter To Justice Department Opposing Private Migrant Prison Contracts

Reps. Menendez, Watson Coleman, Kim Send Letter To Justice Department Opposing Private Migrant Prison Contracts

 

Jersey City, NJ – Last week, Reps. Rob Menendez (NJ-08), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Andy Kim (NJ-03) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland encouraging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to refrain from supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts for private detention centers in New Jersey, including a potential new operation, Delaney Hall. This effort follows up on a letter sent August of 2023 that expressed serious concern over DOJ’s support for the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC), a privately-owned facility contracted by ICE to detain migrants in Newark.

 

“The Elizabeth Detention Center has a long-documented history of poor conditions including a lack of proper air quality, sanitation violations, overcrowding, inadequate medical and mental health care, and incidents of retaliation and abuse by guards and staff,” the letter states.

 

The private owner of the Elizabeth Detention Center, CoreCivic, is currently locked in litigation against New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy following his enactment of AB 5207, a state law which prohibits private correctional facilities from entering into agreements with federal immigration authorities to detain noncitizens.

 

The DOJ’s support comes in the form of a formal “statement of interest” in the ongoing case. CoreCivic aims to renew their contract with ICE, while the Florida-based company, GEO Group, is seeking a new agreement to operate the Delaney Hall facility, also located in Newark.

 

“CoreCivic and GEO Group are the largest private prison operators in the United States and have grown to enjoy over $1 billion in revenue each year,” the letter continues. “When the President issued an executive order eliminating the use of privately operated criminal detention facilities, the administration stated that, ‘privately operated criminal detention facilities consistently underperform Federal facilities with respect to correctional services, programs, and resources’ and ‘privately operated criminal detention facilities do not maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the Federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff.’ These same disparate and dangerous conditions still persist in privately operated immigration detention centers and the efforts to expand such a system must not be met with support from the federal government.”

 

The letter is signed by every House Democrat from the New Jersey delegation.

 

The full letter can be read here.

 

Congressman Menendez originally called for the closure of EDC in July  2023. He also co-led a letter with Reps. Watson Coleman and Payne urging the DOJ to rescind its support for CoreCivic’s lawsuit against AB 5207, New Jersey’s state law prohibiting private immigration detention. In September 2023, Congressman Menendez and Rep. Watson Coleman sent an additional letter urging Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to terminate efforts to continue contracting with CoreCivic for the operation of EDC. The Congressman also held discussions with senior DHS officials to advocate for the closure of the facility in December 2023 and visited EDC to inspect conditions in January 2024.

 

Congressman Menendez is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, which oversees the operations of DHS and ICE.

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