TRENTON, N.J. — A bill that would ban state and local agencies for entering into agreements with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has now passed both chambers of the state legislature.
The bill passed by a vote of 23-15 in the New Jersey State Senate Thursday. The senate is made up of 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. It passed the State Assembly last week by a margin of 46 to 24.
The legislation, which had the backing of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, comes 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.
“County jails and other entities should be used to house people accused of real crimes, not to hold undocumented immigrants, and thereby needlessly separating them from their families,” said Sen. Weinberg. “New Jersey has for generations been a landing spot for new immigrants from all over the world. These are our neighbors and friends. This bill recognizes our common humanity, and I look forward to seeing Governor Murphy sign it into law.”
In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that bans the Department of Justice from entering into these agreements. Immigrant activists have said that the New Jersey law would go further than Biden’s to end the practice. In addition, California and Illinois have statewide bans on the practice, while Washington only allows private agreements with ICE. Numerous county officials in other states have outlawed the practice.
Pro-immigrant groups in the Garden State are now demanding Gov. Phil Murphy sign the legislation into law.
“The legislature’s swift passage of the anti-detention bill this week demands urgency from the governor’s office to sign it into law,” said Amy Torres, Executive Director at the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “This law would position New Jersey as a national leader. The state-wide ban would confirm the message that continues to be raised at the local level — profiting off of pain and family separation contradicts New Jersey values.“
The bill now heads to Murphy’s desk. A spokesperson for the governor declined comment on the pending legislation.