Over 15,000 Deported From NJ in 5 Years: Activists Demand Changes
TRENTON – Immigration activists unveiled a new policy platform Wednesday that pushed for state lawmakers to take election-year action on things such as banning new federal detention contracts and putting into law current limits on cooperation with immigration authorities.
The campaign coincides with the publication of new research by New Jersey Policy Perspective that analyzes ICE data obtained through public records requests by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Vineeta Kapahi, a policy analyst for the progressive NJPP, said more than 15,000 immigrants have been ordered deported following court decisions in New Jersey in the last five years, including 4,036 in fiscal 2020.
She said cases take nearly three years to decide and that the average cash bail, for immigrants allowed to post it, is $12,000 – which is one-third of the average income of unauthorized immigrants.
“Federal immigration enforcement’s cruel and inhumane practices have a substantial impact on New Jersey. They violate public rights. They harm public health. And they deepen racial and economic inequities,” Kapahi said.
“In the absence of (federal) reform, it’s critical that state lawmakers take action to prevent collaboration with racist and violent institutions and to ensure that all New Jersey residents are able to participate in our communities without fear,” she said.
Sharon Chajon, of Plainfield, came to the United States in 2009 from Colombia and became a U.S. citizen. Her husband came from Guatemala at age 13 and isn’t a citizen, though had protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Her husband green card application was denied, and he was shortly thereafter detained for 18 months. He finally won permanent residency in late 2018 – but by then, he had lost his painting business and they had lost their home.
“Our nightmare was a complete waste of time and money and cost us a lot of suffering for us. There was no reason why Jorge had to be locked up while his immigration case was being decided,” said Chajon, who said that as a father and husband he wasn’t a flight risk.
The Fair & Welcoming Platform includes four priorities: Banning new or renewed ICE detention contracts in the state; barring immigration enforcement in schools, hospitals and courthouses; making the Immigrant Trust Directive stronger and permanent; and removing terms like “alien” from state law.
“As our elected leaders prepare for primaries and election season, we remind them: We are not just part of your stump speech. We are not just part of your campaign background image or your diversity checklist,” said Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. “Immigrants are your constituents. We are your voters. We are the workers who pay your salary. And we demand a New Jersey for all.”
Torres said action by the Senate and Assembly is preferable to executive steps by Gov. Phil Murphy or Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“Anything that would come out of the executive branch would be temporary, so a new governor could come in and completely change everything, right?” she said. “So, we want to make sure that we make these new laws as difficult to undo as possible. The responsibility is in the Legislature.”