NJ Immigrant Rights Advocates Welcome Lawsuit By Detainees

Newark, NJ--(Friday, May 15th, 2020) With Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CoreCivic, the for-profit company that runs private ICE detention facilities, failing to address the growing public health concerns at their detention centers, four individuals detained at Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC) filed a lawsuit today for the release of detainees from the facility. 

In response, New Jersey immigrant rights advocates released the following statements in support of the lawsuit. 

“Facilities like detention centers, jails, and prisons have become traps during the COVID19 pandemic. Conditions in all four New Jersey detention facilities were already poor with reports of lack of sanitary food and violations of individual constitutional and human rights. Elizabeth Detention Center is among the worst.” said Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “We welcome this lawsuit as an important way for people whose lives are being put at risk of serious illness and death to find relief.”

Over the last week, two individuals died in ICE custody of COVID19. Both were recently held in ICE facilities, one at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, which is also run by CoreCivic. Additionally, just this week, two New Jersey corrections officers died due to COVID19, one who worked at Elizabeth Detention Center, adding to the previous five deaths of employees working at detention facilities in New Jersey.

“ICE has the discretion to release detainees from its facilities, where thousands continue to be held despite the growing number of positive cases among staff and detainees. Hundreds of detainees are sick, but testing and adequate medical care are sparse.

“We see the number of deaths in ICE custody growing when we should instead see the number of people released and recovering grow. No one should fear for their lives in ICE detention or jail, said Katy Sastre, Outreach Coordinator with New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.

“This pandemic has revealed the atrocity of immigration detention and incarceration. EDC, like other jails, is a tinderbox for people who are detained there, people who work there, and their families and communities, and the danger grows every day,” said Chia-Chia Wang, Organizing and Advocacy Director for the American Friends Service Committee in New Jersey. “Inaction from ICE and CoreCivic will be deadly for our clients. We want to see everyone released so they can reunite with their loved ones and safely practice social distancing at home.”