ELIZABETH, N.J. — A woman spent three months in a New Jersey detention facility and now even the name of the town still hurts her.
Andrea Gordon was 56 when she was at the Elizabeth Detention Center for a now-resolved domestic matter.
“It was really horrible,” a tearful Gordon said, describing the Elizabeth Detention Center where she was detained for three months. “Just hearing the name Elizabeth alone brings me shockwaves.”
Allegations of inhumane and disturbing conditions have long plagued the Elizabeth Detention Center.
“[There are] a lot of innocent people there and [the] treatment they get, it shouldn’t exist,” Gordon said.
Despite legislation that was passed by both chambers of the state legislature blocking local jails from signing new contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency confirmed to PIX11 that it has extended its contract with the detention center operated by CoreCivic through August 2023.
The bill that would’ve stopped that agreement has been sitting on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk awaiting his signature for weeks now, frustrating many immigrant advocates.
Chia-Chia Wang is the organizing and advocacy director for the American Friends Service Committee..
“I think this is a wakeup call,” Wang said. “The renewal has already been signed and I think that together with the advocates, the public and the governor’s office should really learn from this.”
Advocacy groups, including American Friends Service Committee, had warned the Murphy administration to sign the bill immediately as ICE intended to pursue new contracts.
The bill is one of nearly 600 on the governor’s desk, Wang was told.
“There are other ways you can make money,” she said. “It does not have to be from incarcerating people.”
The controversial facility, which currently houses 115 immigrant detainees, came under fire at the height of the pandemic after allegations of rampant COVID safety violations that were taking place, putting many detainees at risk.
As advocates and impacted families await that signature, Gordon has a message for Murphy.
“You don’t have to experience something to know that it is not good,” she said.
Murphy’s office declined to comment on the matter.
A timeline on when – or even if – he plans to sign this bill remains unclear. Gov. Murphy is currently on vacation with his family in Italy.