North NJ DSA

For Immediate Release-
November 25th, 2020
Jake Ephros | 973-303-8129 |

North NJ Democratic Socialists Join Historic Public Outcry Against ICE
Hudson County Freeholders vote ‘YES’ on ICE contract during 12-hour public meeting

The North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America (NNJ DSA) condemns the Hudson County Board of Freeholders for its callous indifference and dismissal of public outrage against the county’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Following almost twelve hours of public testimony to close the Hudson County ICE Detention Center, the Hudson County Freeholders voted to renew the 10-year contract with ICE, putting profit over the value of human lives. Former ICE detainees, immigration lawyers, doctors and healthcare workers, community organizers, and faith leaders expressed absolute opposition to the renewal. This renewal is a total reversal of a 2018 commitment by County Executive Tom DeGise and other Freeholders to pull out of the contract by the end of this year.

NNJ DSA, as a coalition member of Abolish ICE NY-NJ, worked with activists and advocates to organize this historic turnout for public comment on the ICE contract renewal. Following the first nine hours of universal opposition to renewal, including testimonies of survivors of ICE detention and more, the Freeholders cut off public comments with people still in queue to speak. “Despite every single person telling Freeholders to end this contract, despite numerous immigration advocates reassuring Freeholders that ending the contract is the only right decision, and despite the trauma that detainees and the community faces from ICE, Freeholders turned their backs on their community and the detainees for nothing,” said NNJ DSA member Aissa Heath.
Several of the Freeholders argued against renewal. Freeholder William O’Dea referenced the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Freeholders Fanny Cedeño and Joel Torres also voted against the renewal, citing the number of their constituents who are immigrants. The rest of the Board voted in favor, renewing the ICE contract “for as long as permitted by law.” While all are in the Democratic Party, it’s difficult to see any difference between their policy and the current Trump administration’s war on immigrants.

North Jersey DSA particularly condemns freeholder Caridad Rodriguez for her ignorant nativism, invoking her family’s “safety” against an imaginary criminal immigrant threat, and freeholder Albert Cifelli, who hid behind purported concern for the 93 current detainees despite explicit offers of legal representation from immigration attorneys on the call. When repeatedly pressed by community members about what steps he would actually take to better the lives of those current detainees, Cifelli called the question “rhetorical” and refused to answer. “It was discouraging to hear Cifelli repeatedly lie and claim the people currently detained in Hudson want the contract to continue, ignoring direct testimony,” said Katia Oltmann of DSA, who also spoke at the meeting against the contract. NNJ DSA believes Hudson County deserves better than this shameful behavior.

Public comment re-opened after other agenda items were voted on and speakers continued to rally against the renewal for hours more until about 1:00AM. Throughout the 12-hour meeting, members of NNJ DSA, Central NJ DSA, and New York City DSA continued to express the voices of opposition. The freeholders occasionally censored the free speech of participants by banning profanity, a clear violation of the First Amendment. Several teenagers spoke of their disillusionment with politics and the Democratic Party after witnessing the travesty of a meeting. NNJ DSA applauds their courage and invites them to join in fighting for a better world. “What we saw last night was yet another example of the moral bankruptcy by those who are supposed to represent the interests of their constituency. As members of the DSA, we recognize that only through the independent political organization of the working class– formed through class struggle campaigns and direct action– can we build the mass movements capable of winning transformative demands like Abolishing ICE,” said Jorge Maldonado, co-chair of the NNJ DSA.

Currently, 93 are detained by ICE in Hudson County Correctional Center. As DeGise has been given a blank check to do as he pleases with the ICE contract, NNJ DSA will continue to fight against immigration detention in Hudson County and beyond and at the other three detention centers in our state. We will all continue to work to replace these cruel and indifferent so-called representatives of the people, and to destroy the detention and deportation machine entirely. We will not stop because no human is illegal!

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