ICE extends contract with NJ detention center with bill banning them on Murphy’s desk

New Jersey

FILE – In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer watches during an operation in Escondido, Calif. A Chinese pro-democracy activist is being detained by the Biden administration under what his advocates allege are charges falsified by Beijing so he can be deported and punished for his advocacy. The man’s attorneys have asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release him from custody while his asylum application is reviewed. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey detention center has extended its agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite a bill that’s been passed by both chambers of the New Jersey legislature banning such agreements.

A spokesperson for ICE confirmed to PIX11 News Friday that ICE is extending its contract with Elizabeth Detention Center through Aug. 31, 2023. The spokesperson confirmed that this was an extension and not the length of the original agreement but could not provide further details.

A bill that would ban state and local agencies for entering into agreements with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has passed both chambers of the state legislature. It has yet to be signed by the governor.

The legislation, which had the backing of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, came in response to a new request from ICE seeking additional detention space in New Jersey and the tri-state area. In October 2020, ICE solicited information for new detention sites that would result in contracts to house up to 900 more detainees in New Jersey. 

The bill passed by a vote of 23-15 in the New Jersey State Senate in late June. The senate is made up of 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. It passed the State Assembly a week prior by a margin of 46 to 24, where the Dems hold a 52-28 majority.

For immigrant rights’ groups, the contract happening while the bill sits at a Democratic governor’s desk is particularly disheartening.

“The simple fact is, New Jersey shouldn’t haven’t to pin all our hopes on a lawsuit when perfectly good legislation banning ICE renewals passed in June and was ready to become law,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said in a statement. “New Jersey’s newest ICE agreement could have been prevented. It happened when Democrats had full control of the state and Washington. This new deal is a shame that never should have happened in the first place.”

Torres is referencing a lawsuit filed in May by the detention center’s landlord alleging the company did not follow federal guidelines and requirements to stop the spread of COVID-19, leading 51 people in custody to test positive for the virus. If successful, the landlord would be able to terminate the lease.

Spokespersons for both Gov. Murphy and the New Jersey Democratic Legislative Caucus declined comment.

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