Immigrants’ Rights Advocates Applaud Senate Law & Public Safety Committee Passage Of S3361, Call On Continued Momentum before Summer Recess
Advocates call on Assembly to follow suit on bill to ban future ICE detention contracts in New Jersey with full floor votes in the legislature before July
NEW JERSEY - Thursday, May 20, 2021 -- The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) applauds the movement on bill S3361 after it moved out of the Senate Law and Public Safety committee today. In response, impacted immigrant New Jerseyans and advocates commended the bill’s advancement and urged the Assembly to schedule A5207 for a vote in the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee on June 2nd. Further, the coalition calls for a floor vote in both houses prior to the legislature’s summer recess in July.
Bill S3361/A5207 would prohibit public and private contractors from entering into, renewing, or expanding ICE detention contracts in New Jersey. The bill would allow for local, state, and federal officials to coordinate the safe and planned release of people currently detained in ICE facilities to their families and community. Further, under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s own admission, the agency’s enforcement is shaped by local detention bed capacity, indicating that with fewer ICE beds available in the tri-state area, New Jersey and surrounding states can expect to see fewer ICE arrests.
“Nearly one in four New Jersyans is an immigrant, and whether undocumented or not, all immigrants are at risk of detention and deportation under ICE’s terror regime. Today’s win follows a wave of momentum at the local level to end detention and free New Jersey from ICE’s grip,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “This is not the final step, but allows the movement to gain firm footing for the continued fight to #FreeThemAll.”
Immigrant community members affected by ICE detention in New Jersey spoke to the need to end the inhuman and psychologically traumatizing experience of ICE detention and the need for universal legal representation for immigrants with ongoing ICE cases.
"This bill to me symbolizes what New Jersey should stand for and is a step forward to end our participation in an inhumane system. Detention has hurt my family, my life, and made it extremely hard for me to fight my asylum case. As officials work towards ending one part of the unjust system, immigrants also need access to representation for all. Legal representation would protect my due process rights, make my case fundamentally fair, and relieve my family during their economic hardship,” said Carlos Sierra, First Friends Released Friend & Program Associate, formerly detained in Essex County ICE facility.
“At the height of the pandemic, I spent several months in a detention center separated from my family. I am no longer there, but I fear every day that I could be detained again. Today's Senate committee vote means I am one step closer to living without fear. The Senate took a step in the right direction today. I look forward to seeing the Assembly do the same,” said Julie, Make the Road New Jersey member. (last name intentionally withheld)
Legal service providers and advocates called on the Assembly to pass A5207 out of committee and hold floor votes in both houses.
"AFSC has provided legal representation to immigrant detainees in New Jersey since 1997 and has seen firsthand the harm that detention causes to the individuals detained, as well as to their families and communities. We commend the NJ Senate Law and Public Safety Committee for its stand against immigration detention and call on the state legislature to enact this legislation as a step forward towards ending immigration detention in our state once and for all. We call on the New Jersey legislature to pass out of the Assembly committee and hold full floor votes immediately," said Nicole Polley Miller, Legal Services Director of the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program.
“To be a truly fair and welcoming state, we must make sure that all New Jerseyans – regardless of immigration status – can thrive here. That means ending New Jersey’s complicity in the immigration detention system and limiting local resources that go to enforcement in our state. Passing S3361 is an important step to achieving these goals. We’re grateful to the members of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee for rightfully approving the bill, and we call on the Assembly to do the same,” said Sarah Fajardo, Policy Director, ACLU-NJ.
“We applaud the swift passage of Senate Bill 3361 out of committee and thank all who championed for this bill to begin moving through the Legislature. We trust that the State will move in a direction that would repeal cruel and unjust incarceration of immigrant families who simply know America as their home. We commend the most recent actions and hope to see it move quickly through its next steps and onto the Governor’s desk,” Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ District Director, SEIU Local 32BJ.
“New Jersey is strongest when all residents are able to fully participate in our communities. Yet, federal immigration enforcements’ inhumane detention practices continue to separate families, harm public health, and worsen racial and economic inequities. New Jersey should stand up against these practices by working to end all ICE detention in the state. We applaud the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee for taking this critical step toward a fairer and more welcoming New Jersey,” said Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst, New Jersey Policy Perspective.
“We are pleased to see the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee's support for taking important steps towards ending New Jersey’s collaboration with the inhumane ICE detention system. Thousands of New Jersey residents have spent months and even years separated from their families in New Jersey-based ICE detention centers while they await immigration court proceedings. We look forward to the NJ Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee taking similar steps and urge the elimination of all ICE detention contracts and the release of ICE detainees,” said Ellen Whitt, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War.
Faith leaders joined the chorus of voices in support of ending New Jersey’s participation in federal immigration enforcement.
"The action today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee shows us that action to move toward justice is always possible. We know that detaining undocumented people is harmful and rarely if ever necessary, that jail conditions are bad, and that families suffer. Our faith tells us to help our neighbors. Enacting S3361 should reduce detention in New Jersey, and as it does we can be sure that many families will be better off," said Ted Fetter, chair of the Immigration Justice Task Force of Unitarian Universalist FaithAction New Jersey.
"As a minister in a sanctuary congregation, I've seen up close in detention facilities and with families, the pain and terror invoked by ICE. The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee made a critical step in making our communities safer in New Jersey and to terminating this racist structure. We now turn to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, said the Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Summit NJ. “I live in a community that has funded recreation off the backs of my detained neighbors. We must commit to closing New Jersey to any further terror profit industry."
The bill’s prime sponsors issued the following remarks applauding the immigrant justice community and Senate committee members for the continued momentum on the legislation.
“No human should be imprisoned because of their immigration status. I applaud NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the ACLU for their continued advocacy. Thank you to the Senate Committee members for supporting our immigrant population and basic human rights,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg, primary bill sponsor, Legislative District 37
Their colleagues joined the call to end future ICE detention contracts and work toward creating a “New Jersey for All.”
“Today the State Senate took an important step forward in ensuring dignity and justice for New Jersey’s immigrant community. We must continue to work to end ICE contracts in New Jersey and that begins with the Assembly posting this important legislation for a hearing. New Jersey can and should be a leader in ensuring dignity and justice for immigrants, that begins with ending ICE contracts in our State,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, LD 37, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
“Today’s action by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee reflects our values as a state. We should be celebrating our diversity and immigrant neighbors, including young students and parents and siblings of uniformed service members, rather than uprooting and separating them from their families and communities simply because of their immigration status and subjecting them to imprisonment. It’s time for this measure to advance and get to the Governor’s desk,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, LD 33, sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
"This is another positive step forward. I am hopeful that this important piece of human rights legislation will be voted on in June. Our criminal justice system should not be used as a profit center,” said Assemblyman Nicholas A. Chiaravalloti, LD 31, co-sponsor of A5207 in Assembly.
Last month, NJAIJ issued a supplementary brief addressing questions regarding the Fair and Welcoming - New Jersey For All Platform.
NJAIJ is a statewide coalition of 43 member organizations, representing 150,000 people, that creates and achieves policies that support New Jersey's immigrants. We uphold the human, civil, and labor rights of all immigrants, whether documented or seeking status, and prioritize keeping families together.