Newark, NJ -- Friday, March 12th, 2021 -- Immigrants’ rights advocates were shocked by a sudden decision to delay a planned vote S-3361, a bill that would ban all future federal immigration detention contracts and prohibit the renewal and extension of existing contracts. The bill, which was scheduled to be voted on in the Senate’s Law & Public Safety Committee on Thursday, was suddenly scheduled for discussion only. If signed into law, the legislation will take effect immediately.
Urgency for the bill has been building since December when it was first introduced in the Assembly (A-5207) in response to two October Requests For Information (RFIs) issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify new locations for detention facilities within 60 miles of its Newark and New York field offices. These RFIs would significantly expand ICE’s capacity for raids and arrests in the region and will most certainly result in expansions or renewals of New Jersey’s current agreements.
Advocates warn that further delay of this bill would allow local governments and private entities to make hasty arrangements to extend their existing contracts. More urgently, far-right hate groups have indicated that they are mobilizing an opposition campaign to spread misinformation about transfers and false threats to public safety. During Thursday’s Senate committee hearing, a representative of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an extremist organization, testified in opposition to the bill. FAIR has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and regularly launches disinformation campaigns in states around the nation in response to forward-thinking local immigration policies.
“The State must make a choice. When it comes to immigration, will New Jersey stand on the right side of history? Or will New Jersey stand with the far-right’s baseless fear-mongering and racist attacks?,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “Last November’s national election is a clear indication of where voters stand. The Alliance looks forward to working with our members and allies to make A5207/S3361 a reality and keep the legislature accountable to their promise to create a fair and welcoming New Jersey for all.”
“It is past time for New Jersey to end its complicity in the trauma that ICE inflicts on immigrant communities across the state living in fear of ICE enforcement and detention. To truly create a fair and welcoming state for everyone who calls New Jersey home, we must end the abhorrent practice of profiting from the detention of our friends and neighbors,” said Ami Kachalia, Campaign Strategist, ACLU-NJ. “We urge the New Jersey Legislature to advance legislation to ban new immigration detention contracts, and renewals and expansions of existing contracts.”
Despite the surprise delay, the public demonstrated strong support for the bill with impacted residents, legal representatives, and advocates calling on Committee Chair Greenstein and committee members to vote the Senate version of the bill out of committee and protect immigrant families from the threat of expanded ICE detention. Advocates are also calling on Assembly Speaker Coughlin and Chairman Taliaferro to post the bill in the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee for a vote on March 17th.