Hunger strike by ICE detainees in NJ reaches 30-day mark

New Jersey
Bergen County Jail air conditioning working after Friday night breakdowns: officials

Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey.

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Immigrants detained by ICE in New Jersey have now been on a hunger strike for 30 days, according to advocates.

The detainees are protesting conditions inside the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack. The Abolish ICE NY-NJ coalition and its allies allege they are being subjected to a violent detention system and retaliation by ICE as well as the Bergen County Sheriff.

“When anyone embarks on a hunger strike, they are putting their bodies on the line for the opportunity to be heard. These brave hunger strikers are protesting their indefinite detention and right to be reunited with loved ones and community where they can safely socially distance,” a spokesperson for the Abolish ICE NY-NJ coalition said in a statement. “All the while, conditions at the Bergen County Jail continue to deteriorate. A rodent infestation, lack of heat, lack of clean water, and abuse from facility staff have all made for unlivable, unsanitary conditions.”

The coalition claims ICE has retaliated against the hunger strikers by relocating several them to different detention centers in upstate New York.

“It is futile to try to transfer the hunger strikers away from the protests; they are the protest. Elected officials and law enforcement cannot ignore the reality that as long as human lives remain behind bars amid a global pandemic, calls to free them all will not cease,” Abolish ICE NY-NJ coalition spokesperson said.

On Saturday, police clashed with anti-ICE demonstrators who were protesting outside of the jail in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Amy Torres, an organizer with the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, said the protesters need action on a state level.

“What’s important to note is that there would be no protests outside if Gov. [Phil] Murphy, ICE, and the various county contractors released people protesting on the inside,” Torres said in a statement to PIX11 News. “[Sunday] marks day 30 of the Bergen hunger strike and supporters have been regularly holding vigil outside the jail, calling strikers inside and letting them tell their story through a cell phone and megaphone to the outside.”

Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton on Sunday said while some of the protesters outside the jail on Saturday were there to demonstrate peacefully, others threw objects and spat at officers.

Nine people were arrested, eight of whom were New York residents, Cureton said. Charges range from disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration to resisting arrest, according to the sheriff.

They were issued summonses and released from custody.

Cureton said a thorough review of Saturday’s incident will be conducted.

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