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NEW JERSEY — Over the last several weeks, protesters have gathered in front of the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey protesting the detainment immigrants by ICE and the alleged unsanitary conditions under which they are being held.

Accounts of those alleged unsanitary conditions have been documented by the detainees, but never along with any supporting photos or videos that had been independently gathered.

Until now.

Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton recently granted PIX11 News exclusive access to the jail, including the areas where about 180 ICE detainees are being held under a contract between the federal agency and the county.

In a recent story, PIX11 had mentioned a lack of access to the jail. Less than two days later, our cameras were allowed inside.

That access included several areas, from a close watch area next to the medical office, and one of the main pods containing 65 cells, all but one of which hold immigration detainees.

“From the point of transparency,” Cureton said, “we have no problem with bringing you or any other media outlet in here to see for yourself what it holds.”

But from behind their locked cell doors – we could hear detainees loud and clear as they yelled out their complaints: “We don’t have water!”

When pressed about the claim, Cureton said water was generally available.

“How do they get water? They get water in their own units. Normally, when the food comes up, we provide carages sitting over there. They can get water for themselves,” Cureton said.

That moment revealed a sobering contradiction between detainees alleging — through phone calls, drawings, and their own accounts — unsanitary, unsafe, and inhumane conditions, and what we saw during our visit: a clean jail, though we don’t know what the conditions were like in the pod yesterday, last week, or last month.

Critical Resistance, a local immigration advocacy group which is part of the New York-New Jersey coalition of “Abolish ICE,” issued a news release Wednesday, hours after hour visit to the jail, accusing Cureton of staging conditions for our news camera.

That release reads in part, “This attempt at cheap grace cannot cover up the moral stain of family separation or of the mental torture of indefinite detention. It cannot cover up the trauma that people are suffering each and every day in detention in Bergen County, in New Jersey and across the country.

So we put that to Cureton and asked him what he would say to readers and viewers that question what really happens on daily basis in the facility, when cameras aren’t expected.

“As you can see from this particular case,” he said during the visit, “we are in an active unit right now, with detainees in here. And these rooms, I’m pretty sure — if you went around the whole unit — you’ll see they’re pretty much kept the same way. The floors outside speaks for itself. So for us, it’s a daily thing, because this is transparency. So those who are watching and see this: we have nothing to hide.”