Hudson County Democrats get restraining order against ICE protests
JERSEY CITY — Emotions continue to run high as a renewed agreement with federal immigration officials prompted several nights of protests in Hudson County and now a restraining order against the demonstrations.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, as well as five county freeholders — all Democrats — had sought the temporary restraining order against activists demonstrating in front of DeGise’s home in Jersey City and the homes of the others named.
After an hours-long public hearing on the issue Nov. 24, the county recently renewed its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to continue housing federal detainees in Hudson County jail.
That move came despite a proposal by DeGise in September 2018 to wind down the agreement, as reported previously by the Wall Street Journal.
On Tuesday night, Hudson County sheriff’s officers read part of the restraining order to protesters outside DeGise’s home and eventually arrested at least one person.
According to the order signed by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski, demonstrations are temporarily restricted from getting any closer than 200 feet outside DeGise and the freeholders' residences. The order also sets a limit on such protests to 10 people or less, while setting a restriction on the frequency and time to once every two weeks for a one-hour window from 7 to 8 p.m.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said on Twitter that the county's action is "deeply alarming."
"No elected official should resort to restraining orders to silence their constituents' constitutional right to protest. We're monitoring the situation, and we’ll be watching closely," the organization said.
Requests for comment from multiple officials, including Hudson County spokesman James Kennelly, and an attorney for the Board of Freeholders, Edward Florio, were not answered on Wednesday.
In addition to several nights of protests outside DeGise’s home, there also was a confrontation at a Dec. 1 fundraiser for Freeholder Anthony Romano in Hoboken. Video taken at that encounter shows Romano pushing at least one of the protesters, as seen on footage posted by Julian Leshay to Instagram.
The nine-page order signed by Jablonski, as posted online by Hudson County View, specifically named Amy Torres, Stacey Gregg, Kason Little, Marisa Budnick, Anand Sarwate, and “John and Jane Does” for unnamed protesters.
Other than DeGise, Romano — a retired Hoboken police captain — was among the plaintiffs who requested it, as well as fellow Freeholders Anthony Vainieri, Caridad Rodriguez, Albert Cifelli and Kenneth Kopacz.
Torres was among those who filed assault charges against Romano, while Gregg was arrested outside of DeGise’s home on Tuesday, according to their social media accounts.
Facebook Live video posted to Gregg's personal page shows the sheriff's officer on Tuesday after he read from the judge's signed order, asking, "Are you going to listen and comply with the order to disperse?"
In the video, Gregg says, "We're complying, you want to arrest me, arrest me, let's do it — because I'm standing here, I'm not leaving."
The ICE contract has highlighted the intraparty warfare among Democrats in Hudson County.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a former mayor and congressman from the county, released a statement Friday describing the ICE contract as "taking blood money from ICE, to turn our jails into waystations for deportations for nonviolent, non-criminal immigration detainees."
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., also issued his own written statement, saying that “no private or government entity should be contracting with ICE. These arrangements too often incentivize locking up people who pose no risk to the public, and perpetuate dangerous and dehumanizing immigration enforcement tactics.”
Vainieri, who serves as Hudson County freeholder chairman, said in comments to the Hudson County View that the timing of the senators’ criticism was “infuriating,” saying the senators “parachute in now and try to tell Hudson County government how it should operate. Where have they been?”
Menendez then countered Vaineri’s comments, telling the New Jersey Globe that he had “repeatedly made my concerns known to Hudson officials both publicly and privately.”