Essex County will nix a controversial agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that saw it hold immigration detainees for the federal agency, County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo announced Wednesday.
“We have had a very solid working relationship with ICE during the last 13 years. It has always been in the best interest of the detainees to remain close to their family, friends, attorneys and community organizations helping them in a facility that was safe and secure. Our ECCF fulfilled this responsibility very well and we thank ICE for their partnership,” DiVincenzo said. “Governments at all levels are faced with difficult financial challenges, and we are thankful that we are able to help our neighbors in Union County. This partnership is a great opportunity for Union County to find an alternative way to house their inmates without having to operate a costly facility and for Essex County to maximize the capacity of our accredited complex and generate revenue,” he added.
Essex County Board of Commissioners President Wayne Richardson said his fellow commissioners were unanimous in their support.
“This board has heard clearly and consistently from constituents concerned about ICE detainees and the County’s contract with ICE,” Richardson said. “Those concerns have not fallen upon unconcerned ears.”
The contracts award Essex federal money for each ICE detainee held in county correctional facilities. Such contracts, which also exist in Hudson and Bergen Counties, have come under increasing fire over recent years, with advocates — a group that at one point included U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) — arguing against them on moral grounds.
The county anticipates holding no ICE detainees by Aug. 23.
It expects to make up the lost revenue through a recent agreement to house inmates from neighboring Union County.
WNYC was first to report the shift.
“The idea of detaining individuals solely on their unauthorized entry in the United States is fundamentally wrong,” said Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill. “I am happy to see we are turning the page on this chapter in Essex County history and the voices of our concerned constituents have been acknowledged and exonerated.”