Human Rights Advocates Say No to Massive Immigration Detention Center

Proposed Northeast Detention Center Violates Human Rights of Immigrants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

 Contact: Amy Gottlieb 917-494-6415

December 21, 2010      

Newark, NJ - Immigrant and human rights advocates strongly oppose a proposed 2,250 bed immigration detention facility in the Northeast. The practice of detaining immigrants violates their basic human rights, tears apart families, and is a stain on the moral fabric of our communities.  Notwithstanding the grave impact of immigration detention, Essex County has announced intentions to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to increase the number of detainees already held in New Jersey. 

 The advocates denounce the system of immigration detention, and instead call for evidence-based alternatives to detention, such as community monitoring.  These methods save taxpayer money and have proven extremely effective in eliminating any risk of flight during immigration proceedings.  Rather than mass incarceration at a cost of more than $1.7 billion annually, there must be individualized assessments of whether immigrants, including those fleeing brutal persecution and seeking asylum in the United States, should be thrown in prison while courts rule on their civil immigration cases. 

 Essex County may receive federal funds for detaining immigrants on civil immigration violations, but new prisons do not lead to long-term economic gains for communities.  In fact, citizens in Northampton County, PA recently forced their county to withdraw its proposal to build the same type of immigration prison in their community.

  “It is incomprehensible that the Department of Homeland Security continues to build new detention centers and expand prison contracts within an immigration system that we all know is broken,” stated Alix Nguefack, Detention Project Coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee in Newark.

 Although the Obama administration has called for reforms to its detention system, officials have instead continued to incarcerate immigrants at an unprecedented rate, even in the face of mounting public opposition to the incarceration of immigrants for profit.  We call for a reduction in the immigration detention population, which recently hit a record average of 33,000 at any given time. Despite federal promises made over a year ago, the current detention system remains problematic, with deaths, abuses and lack of oversight. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has signaled its intent to expand the troubled system with its recent proposal for a mammoth new detention center in the Northeast, which would only add to existing human rights violations. 

 The current contract between Essex County Jail and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has raised serious questions about the conditions under which immigrants are held. “We received numerous complaints of abuse by guards from detainees in Essex County jail, including serious beatings and verbal abuse, for which there is no meaningful grievance process,” said Karina Wilkinson, Co-founder of Middlesex Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “The jail doesn’t meet the 2008 national detention standards; much less the new revised 2010 standards that are supposed to be moving away from detention as punishment.”

 In many cases, these conditions have proven fatal: since late 2003, over 110 people have died in immigration detention centers throughout the United States.  We cannot allow the expansion of these violations in our community. 

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New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees; American Friends Service Committee;, ACLU of Pennsylvania; New Sanctuary Movement of New York; Casa Esperanza