Some 20 members and supporters of the coalition Resist the Deportation Machine Network or RDM gathered at the Essex County Freeholders meeting on Dec. 19 to demand the immediate shut down of the Essex County ICE Center in northern New Jersey. Speaking out during public comments, they held the Freeholders accountable for their inaction and their collusion with the racist and criminal ICE, which is terrorizing our communities.
Members of the immigrant community gave heart-wrenching testaments of the horror which migrant working families are being subjected as ICE has declared it will increase in raids and expand them into local communities and worksites when previously these raids had centered around criminal justice buildings. ICE was responding to a directive issued by New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Growl limiting local police department cooperation with ICE. Stories of children filled with the fear of not knowing if they’ll see their parents again once they go to school were some of the statements heard during the public comments.
Empty seats at holiday dinners
Some members of the RDM network made this point by dressing as Santa Claus and interrupting the meeting by singing pro-immigrant and anti-ICE Christmas carols. The lyrics of traditional Christmas songs were replaced with words such as “We wish you an ICE-free Christmas,” and “Prison Cells, ICE, please go away, immigrants are here to stay.”
Activists emphasized the vacant seats that will be found at many Christmas dinners in immigrant families throughout Essex County due to arrests. Fathers and mothers, who otherwise should be home with their families this Christmas, will find themselves behind bars in the concentration camps known as the ICE detention center.
Democrats and Republican both enemies of immigrants
For close to two years, RDM has demand the immediate closure of the Essex County ICE detention center. This coalition of activists, political organizations, faith leaders and grassroots organizations has organized protests and demonstrations, pressuring the Essex County Executive, Joseph DiVincenzo, and County of Chosen Freeholders to break the contract with ICE, which allows the agency to house over 700 immigrants and asylum seekers at the government-owned facility in Newark. In return, Essex County receives over $100 per detainee daily. The revenue created by this contract, blood money obtained on the suffering and tears of broken migrant families, is staunchly defended by the Democratic County Executive and Democratic-led board of Chosen Freeholders.
This demonstrates once more that both Democratic and Republican politicians are not friends of the migrant communities. Moreover, the notion that Newark is a sanctuary city, as Mayor Ras Baraka alleged, or that New Jersey is a sanctuary state, as many politicians would have us believe, is nothing but a vile farce.
Essex County among top colluders with ICE
The Transactional Record Access Clearing House (TRAC), a Syracuse University nonpartisan research center, recently reported that Essex County is seventh on the list of top ten counties with the most “ICE community arrests” between October and 2017 and May of this year. Essex County ranked above Maricopa County, Arizona, where racist and bigoted ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio oversaw the persecution and illegal profiling of Spanish speaking and dark-skinned residents (After being convicted of illegal profiling, he was pardoned by Donald Trump).
According to TRAC, in this period ICE made 676 “community arrests” in Essex County. The actual numbers of immigrants jailed is even higher, as the TRAC figures do not include immigrants transferred from the county to ICE custody. Many of these detainees are never charged with any crime. They are just fingerprinted and booked into custody before being handed over to ICE.
Members of the RDM network, including the Party for Socialism and Liberation, will keep fighting until the Essex County breaks its contract and the ICE detention center is shut down.