NJ Community Members Marched Demanding ICE Detainees Release

Community members rallied and marched outside the Bergen County Jail
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Hackensack, NJ — Community members rallied and marched outside the Bergen County Jail on Saturday to protest the sudden transfer of all remaining ICE detainees to different detention centers out of state, far from their families.

The unannounced transfers came as Bergen County Jail finally ended its long-held practice of housing immigration detainees, becoming the last jail in New Jersey to do so.

For months, community members, immigration advocates, and family members have been organizing to demand that remaining immigrants in the Bergen County Jail be released, not transferred out of state. Instead, organizers say, the last 15 ICE detainees were transferred in the middle of the night on Friday, without notice to their families. Previously detainees had, at a minimum, a few days notice before being transferred, because of COVID testing protocols; this time, detainees were given rapid tests and transferred with no advance notice at all.

“New Jersey communities have made it clear that we want an end to ICE violence in our state. Now that the governor has finally banned local jails from making ICE contracts and Bergen County Jail is ending this practice, we are seeing retaliation against the remaining detainees and their families. We want people back in their communities. Instead ICE has transferred them far away in the middle of the night,” said Haydi Torres, an organizer of the protest.

During the protest, which continued despite powerful thunderstorms Saturday afternoon, community members and family members of former Bergen County Jail detainees rallied outside the jail before marching to the street to the Bergen County Justice Center courthouse. Speakers condemned the recent transfers and recounted the abuse ICE detainees have long endured at Bergen County Jail, including unsanitary conditions, unclean food and water, sexual assault and beatings by correctional officers, rodent infestations, and retaliation for speaking up against inhumane treatment.

In a statement, Patrick Julney, a Haitian immigrant previously detained at the Bergen County Jail who has since been transferred out-of-state in preparation for his attempted deportation, said: “ICE uses transfers as a weapon. Just like they use deportations. When someone complains, suddenly there is paperwork and they are gone in the middle of the night. They have deported people who have stays of deportation. They transfer people who went on hunger strike. It’s definitely a weapon meant to keep us from speaking out against the abuses.”

Patrick’s wife, Laura, who has been active in the campaign to stop his deportation, spoke at the rally, highlighting the abuse Patrick has faced during this time in detention and the toll his transfer has taken on her family. She joined the crowd in demanding immediate release for Patrick and other former detainees at the Bergen County Jail.

Organizers also demanded charges be dropped against participants in a December 2020 protest against the Bergen County Jail ICE contract, who faced violent repression from police, including smoke grenades and pepper spray. “Detainees, family members, and the entire community have been organizing against this violence for a long time — and we continue to see retaliation from ICE and police. Today’s protest is to show that we will keep fighting back,” said Laura Julney.

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