Hudson County Freeholders Vote to Renew 10-Year ICE Contract

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More than 100 individuals, including councilpersons from Hoboken and Jersey City, were in attendance at Tuesday’s Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting to decide whether to authorize the county executive to renew the county jail’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement {ICE}. The majority of the Jersey City Council and the meeting attendees called on the Freeholders to vote down extending their deal with ICE.

The Hudson County Freeholders voted to approve a new 10-year jail contract to ICE 6-3, with Freeholders Bill O’ Dea, Joel Torres, and Fanny Cedeno voting against the new contract, while Freeholders Chairman Anthony Vainieri, Kenny Kopacz, Caridad Rodriguez, Albert Cifelli, Jerry Walker, and Anthony Romano voted to approve the contract.

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Amid a tense session that started with two Freeholders in the chamber discussing everything from meatball and roast beef sandwiches to new seating at St. Peters Preparation, almost all of Tuesday’s attendees, including immigrants and past detainees, spoke out against the renewal of the contract, in a 10+ hour meeting. Many of the attendees commented on the meeting time, which began at 1PM, alleging it as a tactic to defer the community from participating.

Councilmembers from Hoboken including Phil Cohen and Emily Jabbour spoke on the topic of the ICE contract.

“Support for ICE by a contract such as this one harms our community and undermines our values,” Jabbour shared on the Zoom call. “I challenge the notion that this contract is needed for purposes of the county budget.”

Dozens of people including lawyers, teachers, students, immigration experts, and more piled on to the Zoom meeting to participate and express their opinions and concerns, with most citing issues with extending the contract.

“I am not overly concerned whether the county makes or loses money. My concern is the well being of the 70-plus detainees,” Freeholder Cifelli said in the meeting, who voted for the contract.

“I am enlightened by the passion of the speakers,” he said, noting, “I’m turned off by some of them … some of the speakers were off the rails …some were just crazy …, but I appreciate the passion of the speakers.”

He continued, “If we opt to end the contract, how is that going to help the individual client to prosecute his case with the immigration authorities?”

He said he recently met with detainees at the facility who were ‘fearful and anxious’ about where they would go if the jail closed.

“I came here legally,” Freeholder Caridad Rodriguez stated, who also voted for the contract renewal, on the call. “And others should too.”

Here’s a detailed tweet thread of happenings:

Since the start of the pandemic, half a dozen correctional officers and county employees have died from complications related to COVID-19, as have several detainees. Amid allegations of torture from one detainee — the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted on renewing the contract with ICE at the mercy of the speakers from the community.

Notably absent from the meeting were Mayors Ravi Bhalla and Steven Fulop, who had been outspoken against the contract when it was renewed last back in 2018. Hudson County has housed immigrant detainees at the county jail since the mid-1990s.

Under the current deal, the county receives $120 a day, per detainee. Hudson County spokesman James Kennelly said the contract will generate $8 million in revenue this year.

Freeholder Bill O’ Dea motioned for the vote to be carried to another meeting and did not get a second. At the end of the meeting, the vote was approved 6-3.

 

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Raised in Livingston, NJ by a single mother who worked tirelessly to create a beautiful life for her girls, Amanda Lederman's goal has always been to build a career to make her mom proud. After completing her degrees in Public Relations, English, and Journalism at Montclair State University, Amanda threw herself into the media world as a Marketing Associate at Conde Nast’s WIRED. As her love for digital and social media blossomed, Amanda pursued positions at Capezio, Shutterstock, and BlogHer, where she launched, built, and contributed to the companies’ influencer and blogger programs. There, she grew social media engagement and developed editorial, digital, event, and community strategies into powerhouses of performance and profit. Amanda is a full-fledged Jersey Girl, who only moved out of state to go across the river (briefly) and now lives in Jersey City with her boyfriend, Alex, her dog, Otis, and multiple nameless fish.