Attorneys from the New Jersey State Bar Association are asking Gov. Phil Murphy to veto the bill that prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from expanding immigration detention in the state.
The report by northjersey.com says that after the bill was approved by both houses, bar members clients were transferred to ICE facilities located in the South, some with records of abuse, and away from their attorneys and families.
“We’re asking the governor to veto the bill or consider imposing standards that would improve immigration detention and protect due process rights of the detainees,” said Lisa Chapman, a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s legal counsel asked for recommendations from the bar association to support its request for a veto.
Amol Sinha, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) expressed her opinion regarding the transfers of detainees. “ICE routinely transfers people around the country, a practice that has sparked COVID-19 outbreaks and separates people from their loved ones and attorneys,”
Stop pursuing deportations
“The end of a detention contract in no way obligates ICE to transfer people hundreds of miles away. Instead, ICE can and should release people from custody and stop pursuing deportations that harm New Jersey families and communities,” added Sinha.
You can read: New Jersey youth vaccination rates should increase
Bar association members and pro-bono attorneys point out that immigration violations are a civil offense, not a criminal one, and that individuals who are accused of these violations should not be treated as criminals.
ACLU-NJ, anti-detention groups and immigrant rights activists said the bill prevents ICE from entering into new contracts with county jails and private contractors in New Jersey, and that it does not affect existing contracts. They have been urging the governor to sign it into law.
To kill the bill
Amy Torres, Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, one of the organizations that advocated for the bill, holds that the transfers of detainees are very likely a retaliatory move by ICE, which sees a potential statewide ban as an existential threat.
“ICE is not transferring people because they are anticipating the bill. They are transferring people as a way to kill the bill,” she said.
Chapman, of the bar association, said its position is that detentions will continue, even in the most liberal of administrations, including the Biden administration. “What’s happening now is that non-citizen detainees are being shipped off to other facilities where conditions are dire and terrible,” she said. “We can take control of the situation here in New Jersey by improving our detention centers and providing fair representation.”
Two bad options
“We shouldn’t have simply two bad options; it shouldn’t be that people should have to live in squalid conditions in immigration detention in New Jersey or be transferred away to immigration detention in squalid conditions elsewhere,” said Sinha.
“We must end immigration detention in New Jersey and in the United States wholesale. Systems can change, there is no reason why we must accept the status quo or the false premise that immigration detention must exist,” he said.