With advocates and residents voicing their opposition to the detainment of undocumented immigrants, Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Linda Carter sponsor a bill that would prohibit certain entities from agreeing to detain immigrants in New Jersey facilities. The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.
Under the bill (A-5207), the State, local government agencies, and private detention facilities in New Jersey would be prohibited from entering into a new agreement or renewing/expanding an existing agreement with federal immigration authorities – such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – to house or detain individuals for civil immigration violations.
“It is time for the detainment of undocumented immigrants in our state to come to an end,” said Assemblyman Johnson (D-Bergen). “The fundamental principle here is that no one should ever be put behind bars due to their immigration status. As a state and a nation that is a proud melting pot of cultures, creeds and ethnicities, that kind of treatment does not align with our values or our history.”
Over the years, jails in several New Jersey counties have been used by ICE to detain dozens of undocumented immigrants. While some places have recently chosen to end these contracts, others have chosen to renew them.
“Many in New Jersey are calling for an end to ICE contracts,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer). “These detention centers have proven to do more harm than good for New Jersey families. This legislation will put a stop to that.”
Local government agencies prohibited from engaging in these contracts include counties, municipalities and local sheriff offices.
“Preventing our state from entering into any further detention contracts with federal immigration authorities is the right and humane thing to do,” said Assemblywoman Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “We cannot continue to take part in depriving undocumented immigrants of the dignity and respect they deserve in this country.”
Other lawmakers such as U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker have also spoken out against New Jersey counties making agreements with ICE.
The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.