New Jersey’s statewide immigration coalition rallies in support, calls for greater protections

Newark, NJ [February 21, 2023] – On Friday, CoreCivic, the world’s largest private prison corporation, filed a challenge to New Jersey’s ban on immigration detention agreements. In August 2021, New Jersey passed a law banning new agreements to detain immigrants for federal civil immigration violations. The law also banned renewals or expansions of existing agreements and the ability of local jails to be used for ICE detainers.

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), the state’s largest immigration coalition, slammed the announcement of the complaint and expressed support for the defense of the law.

“CoreCivic is notorious for their perverse profit model. In 2021, the year that New Jersey’s anti-detention bill became law, CoreCivic generated $1.9 billion in revenue. They figuratively and literally ‘make a killing’ off of immigration detention, forced prison labor, and e-surveillance and have been called out for numerous abuses and scandal cover ups in their time as a private prison owner and operator,” said Amy Torres with New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “New Jersey fought for this bill to become law and we will fight to defend it. Corporations, especially ones like CoreCivic, shouldn’t get to bend and break the rules simply because they can’t profit from them. We stand in full support of the Governor and Office of the Attorney General as they fight to defend the law.”

Over 50 organizations across the state are part of the NJAIJ coalition. The campaign for the anti-detention bill to become law was led by formerly detained immigrants and the loved ones of those separated by immigrant detention and deportation. New Jersey became the first state on the East Coast with such a ban, and in its aftermath, the all three county-run detention centers independently ended their operations. 

Elizabeth Detention Center, the state’s only private facility, had quietly extended their contract prior to the bill being signed in the summer of 2021. It is slated to end later this summer. As this date approaches, CoreCivic, the prison profiteer that operates the site, now claims the law is unconstitutional as they seek to renew their agreement. 

“New Jersey is no stranger to legal challenges to its laws that empower and protect immigrants. The last instance of the state banning ICE cooperation was the Attorney General’s 2017 Immigrant Trust Directive. This directive was also subject to a lengthy legal battle, which, joined by the support of advocates and community partners, was successfully won and remains law today,” said Erik Cruz Morales, Policy & Advocacy Manager with New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “New Jerseyans don’t back down from a challenge. We’ve won against ICE before and we will win again.”

The Immigrant Trust Directive, like the 2021 ICE detention ban, limits the reach and operations of immigration enforcement within the state and across the region. A 2022 study of the Immigrant Trust Directive found that the law significantly reduced the number of detention and deportation numbers over the years.

It was community organizing, pressure, and outcry that made the ICE detention ban law, and it will be the same voices that rise to support its defense. NJAIJ will be gathering in a series of events over the coming months, starting with a vigil at Elizabeth Detention Center tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. for Ash Wednesday. We call on our members, partners, and allies to again join us in opposition to immigration detention and to limit the reach of ICE’s operations by supporting the Values Act.