In addition to calling for immediate action during the Coronavirus pandemic, the NJ Alliance For Immigrant Justice also released its platform for ending immigration detention across the state.
Newark, NJ- Thursday, March 19th, 2020- Today, Bergen County Correctional Facility confirmed a positive case of novel coronavirus or “COVID-19”, following the confirmation of a staff member at the private detention center in Elizabeth showing COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolating, earlier this week. As the “COVID-19” public health emergency grips the nation, there is an alarming concern for people in jails and detention centers. The threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in small confined areas, especially carceral facilities, has been seen around the world. People in these facilities are housed in close quarters with poor conditions where they have no way of practicing social distancing, including the detention facilities in Bergen, Hudson and Essex counties, and private detention center in Elizabeth. These limitations and the history of disregard of individual health and well-being in jails and ICE detention facilities necessitate releasing people so that they can stay safe from the risk of infection and decrease the risk of an outbreak in these facilities.
New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ), a state-wide coalition of over 40 organizations, firmly believes people belong in their communities and with their families where they can keep safe and healthy. People should not be kept in cages where they are dehumanized and put at risk of abuse and neglect. NJAIJ calls for the release of all people from these facilities, currently left out of crucial social distancing measures taken to address the serious public health risk of the COVID-19 virus. Thousands in New Jersey are incarcerated and detained in facilities that have a documented history of poor conditions putting them at an exacerbated risk of exposure. Immigrant advocates demand state, county, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to work to release all incarcerated and detained people. Upon release, all former detainees and incarcerated persons should be granted immediate access to food, shelter, and medical care without being considered a public charge for the duration of the crisis. Further, advocates urge immigration officials to suspend all enforcement activities immediately, including ICE check-ins, deportations, and transfers of detainees.
“We are very concerned about the health and safety of people in New Jersey’s jails and detention facilities and in our communities. There have been egregious violations at these facilities, including lack of basic access to health care, concern for people’s well-being, and even lack of access to basic sanitary supplies. These facilities do not allow individuals to practice self-isolation. We ask state, county, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to work to release all people held in New Jersey jails and detention facilities. Officials must also investigate any potential COVID-19 exposure, and require facilities to develop a clear plan to respond in case there is a confirmed positive case,” said Johanna Calle, director of New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice.
Along with the call for the immediate release of incarcerated and detained individuals from jails and detention facilities, the NJAIJ released its platform on ending immigration detention in New Jersey to guide the fight against the separation of families through incarceration and immigration detention and deportation. The full platform can be accessed here.