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Rally calls for permanent closure of Elizabeth ICE Detention Center

A number of organizations and activists also gathered to defend New Jersey's private immigration detention ban.

News 12 Staff

Aug 20, 2023, 9:22 PM

Updated 303 days ago

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Immigrants' rights activists gathered Sunday to call for the permanent closure of the Elizabeth Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Center.
A number of organizations and activists also gathered to defend New Jersey's private immigration detention ban.
The detention center usually houses about 100 or more detainees. At this point, News 12 New Jersey was told it is housing over 200 who are living in conditions that activists say are inhumane.
In 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy signed the private immigration detention ban into law. Since then, three of New Jersey's county jails have shut down with the exception of the one in Elizabeth.
"It's beyond time for Elizabeth Detention Center to close down and we are very eager to defend our right to remain a sanctuary state," said Amy Torres, of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
CoreCivic, who owns the detention center, has an active lawsuit against New Jersey to keep the site open, although activists say conditions inside are barbaric.
"Outright neglect and abuse, neglect of medical needs, and physical, verbal, sexual abuse," said Katy Sastre, of First Friends of Jersey, which provides services to those who have been detained.
"There are never-ending complaints of the ways in which people are just caged and treated less than human," she added.
This past Monday, the Biden administration's Department of Justice was in Trenton to argue on behalf of CoreCivic.
A judge is expected to rule by Aug. 31, which is also the day the ICE contract expires at the facility.
News 12 New Jersey reached out to CoreCivic in response to the demonstration, which said it does not cut corners when it comes to care. In a statement CoreCivic said:
"CoreCivic plays a valued but limited role in America’s immigration system, which we have done for every administration – Democrat and Republican – for nearly 40 years, including more than 20 years at Elizabeth Detention Center. Out of respect for the legal process, we have no additional comments on the lawsuit beyond what is contained in our court filings, and encourage you to contact the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.
It is important to note that the Elizabeth Detention Center was not included in the NPR report from last Wednesday that you referenced.
Generally speaking, the leadership teams at the CoreCivic facilities referenced in the NPR story would have had an open line of communication with our government partner, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and would have worked closely with them to address any issues that might have been raised in any inspection reports. Furthermore, these now outdated reports are from 4-6 years ago and are not reflective of current facility operations.
Now, as when these reports were published, our ICE-contracted facilities are required to comply with and are held accountable to federal Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which include guidelines for the safe and appropriate accommodation of all detainees. Full-time, onsite staff monitor conditions and contractual performance to ensure compliance and accountability. Oversight officials have always had unfettered access to detainees, CoreCivic staff, and all areas of our facilities. Our facilities are also required to undergo regular reviews and audits.
The safety, health and well-being of the individuals entrusted to our care is our top priority. We take seriously our obligation to adhere to federal PBNDS in our ICE-contracted facilities. We don’t cut corners on care, staff or training, which meets, and in many cases exceeds, our government partners’ standards and the standards of the independent American Correctional Association. CoreCivic has extensive pre- and in-service training requirements for staff covering all key policy areas, including, but not limited to, training on detainee rights and our Code of Ethics.
Stewart Detention Center (SDC)
It's important to note that prior to November 2018, CoreCivic did not provide medical or mental healthcare services or staffing at SDC. The federal government's ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) was solely responsible for contracting, staffing and oversight of any medical and mental health services provided at Stewart.
CoreCivic staff at Stewart did not make medical or mental health treatment determinations and were trained to refer all detainee health or medical concerns, whether routine or acute, to facility medical staff for evaluation, triage, and treatment. I encourage you to reach out to ICE's Public Affairs Office at ICEMedia@ice.dhs.gov for comment on medical or mental healthcare at SDC if the claims or allegations you intend to cite occurred prior to November 2018.
CoreCivic has extensive pre- and in-service training requirements for staff covering all key policy areas, including but not limited to training on detainee rights and our Code of Conduct. In many cases, CoreCivic staff training is identical to the training received by our government partner counterparts, and it meets or exceeds the training standards of the independent ACA.
Houston Processing Center
CoreCivic policy prohibits harassment and discrimination of any kind. Our staff are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. When a complaint is received it is investigated thoroughly to determine its veracity and to ensure our comprehensive standards are being strictly maintained and enforced Our commitment to providing for the safety and welfare of all those entrusted in our care is our top priority. We maintain multiple grievance mechanisms for detainees to report harassment. Any form of reprisal in response to a complaint is strictly forbidden.
For additional information, I would encourage you to review our 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance Report and our Human Rights Policy.
Respectfully,
Brian Todd
Manager, Public Affairs"


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