“Shut Down the Essex County ICE Detention Center NOW!” That is the demand of a broad coalition of over 25 unions and immigrant rights, worker rights, women’s rights, civil rights, environmental, and socialist organizations that will be demonstrating at noon, Saturday Jan. 27. The demonstration will be in front of the Essex County Correctional Facility, 354 Doremus Ave in Newark, where immigrant detainees are being held.
Resist the Deportation Machine (RDM), a recently-formed organization of immigrant activists, has demanded that the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVencenzo immediately end immigrant detentions at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) in Newark. The demands, formally conveyed in an open letter to the Freeholders and the County Executive that was emailed January 5, calls on them to end the contract between the County and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to hold 800 immigrant detainees at the Center.
The Jan. 27 demonstration is endorsed by: Stop Immigrant Detentions in Essex County (SIDEC), New Jersey Industrial Union Council, Movement For Socialism, Unidad Latina en Accion, Decarcerate the Garden State, Pax Christi NJ, Haiti Solidarity Network NE, Cosecha NJ, Food & Water Watch, Essex Rising, Newark Education Workers, Hudson Civic Action, Green Party of New Jersey, Anakbayan NJ , Migrante NJ, Gabriela NJ, War Against Poverty Coalition, Young Leftists and Progressives of Ramapo College, Feminists United, North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America, Peoples Organization for Progress, Party of Socialism and Liberation, Newark Homes for All, Resist the Deportation Machine, National Organization for Women—New Jersey Chapter, Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ organization, and Greater New Jersey Pride at Work.
“These hardworking detainees should be released immediately to be reunited with their families,” says Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council, one of the endorsing organizations. “They have not been charged with crimes. Profiting from human suffering and detainment of innocent people is immoral.”
“ICE’s detention centers throughout the country are a crucial part of its cruel and illegal deportation machine that is spreading terror and disrupting the lives of millions of immigrants”, RDM’s letter states. “Without ICE’s ability to hold up to 41,000 immigrants in detention, it would be impossible for it to deport the 400,000 or more immigrants per year it is now expelling.”
“We can’t have a sanctuary city and county who fills budget gaps and creates jobs jailing innocent people and breaking up families,” says Alejandro Jaramillo of Cosecha NJ. “It is time for city and county governments to stand in true solidarity with immigrants and stop partnering with ICE.”
To end this injustice, RDM is participating in a campaign to shut down all immigrant detention centers, starting with Essex County. “The ICE system is full to capacity,” RDM’s letter points out, so shutting detention centers will force ICE to free many of the detainees.
RDM’s letter emphasizes that the immigrant detentions without charge or trial are unconstitutional and a threat to the rights of all. “RDM views this fight as part of the broader battle to defend the equal rights of all who live here,” RDM member Eric Lerner explains. The threat of immigrant detentions and deportation undermines the rights of all to due process. The fear of this unconstitutional repression hinders immigrants’ ability to defend their rights to unionize, to organize and to strike, and thus weakens the rights of all working people, no matter where they were born.
The campaign of terror against the immigrants, of which the detention centers are an integral part, is as well undermining education. "Educators see how the current immigration policies are affecting our students every day as they come to school carrying fear in their hearts” says Melissa Tomlinson ,Assistant Executive Director, Badass Teachers Association. “We must stand up to free them of this burden so that they can face their educational journey with the joy that is necessary for learning."
"On over a dozen trips to Haiti since launching the Haiti Solidarity Network, I continue to be jolted seeing families in huts, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no drinkable water, and living in terror of the widespread deadly cholera threatening them and their children,” said Fr. Jack Martin, president, Haiti Solidarity Network, and Bd. Member NJ Clergy Coalition for Justice. “How can we then, with our cruelty, lock up people fleeing this disaster as if they are criminals?”
County Executive DiVencenzo has pointed to the profits generated by Essex County immigrant detention program. "Shame on Essex County for profiting off people who have no legal recourse," replied Karin Vanoppen, an activist helping to organize the demonstration.
RDM aims to spread this campaign to the other detention facilities in NJ, including in neighboring Hudson and Bergen Counties. “We hope that other groups around the country will do the same thing in their regions,” says Lerner. “We clearly can’t wait for Congress to act. Shutting down this whole machine is the best way to protect the rights of all now threatened with deportation—the DACA youth, Salvadorans, Haitians, Hondurans and other losing their Temporary Protected Status (TPS), everyone who lives here.”
The Jan. 27 demonstration is the next step in a campaign initiated by a broad coalition of immigrant and other groups who rallied in Newark on Nov.9 and presented their demands verbally to the Freeholders during their Board meeting. More actions are planned until the detention centers are closed.