Immigrant Detainees in Newark Transferred, Protestors Demand Pandemic Relief for NJ Undocumented Workers
Immigration was a big issue this week in New Jersey. First, as the state government continues to consider a bill ending the detention of immigrants in New Jersey, a group of around 30 immigrant detainees in Newark was transferred to an unknown location. Several of these people were men who had in fact been on a hunger strike due to the fear of being sent to another location and had been demanding release from detention.
Abolish ICE NY-NJ, which advocates on behalf of several organizations to shut down immigration detention facilities throughout the region, criticized the move, stating that these transfers are “reversing the progress made by New Jersey communities and lawmakers who are close to enacting historic legislation to end the state’s involvement in the inhumane immigration detention system.” On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit to block any long-distance transfers to other prisons, including “Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and other places in the Deep South,” stating that the result is that prisoners are “often hundreds of miles from their families, support networks and attorneys.” As more detention facilities are likely to close in New Jersey, the Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Blog, “Immigration Matters,” will continue to cover this issue, including where prisoners are moved during the process.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, a group of immigrants and advocates banded together to block a section of the New Jersey Turnpike near Woodbridge to demand that Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey State Legislature allocate for an additional nearly $1 billion in funds for undocumented workers who have not been eligible for federal or other state pandemic relief.
Soon after the pandemic started in March 2020, activists have staged protests and other types of rallies throughout New Jersey to raise awareness about the lack of government support during the COVID-19 pandemic for undocumented immigrants, who have largely been excluded from various stimulus packages. Like millions throughout the United States, undocumented immigrants have been struggling to pay for rent and other necessities and have felt that they are being ignored by the governor and state politicians.
Jorge Torres, a coordinator for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, a coalition of dozens of organizations throughout the country advocating for the safety and health of immigrant workers, stated that “we’re sick and tired of [telling] Governor Murphy that we need more for essential and excluded workers and we have been doing this for a year and nobody listens to us.” In May, Governor Murphy’s office had announced that it would set aside $40 million in federal CARES ACT to specifically assist New Jersey residents, including undocumented immigrants. However, advocates say the move is too little too late and not anywhere near enough to cover the needs of the nearly 500,000 undocumented immigrants and their families in the state.
Supreme Court Rules Denies Bond Hearings for Certain Detainees
On Tuesday, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrant detainees who were detained after re-entering the United States following the previous deportation were not eligible for bond. Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion, wrote that denying bond hearings for noncitizens “who reentered the country illegally after removal has demonstrated a willingness to violate the terms of a removal order, and they, therefore, may be less likely to comply with the reinstated order.” The result is that individuals who have re-entered the United States and fear they will be harmed in their country of origin will be required to present their entire case from prison.
Normally, most noncitizens detained by immigration authorities for the first time are eligible to seek release from detention from an immigration judge, while those detained after previously being deported are not. In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer posited that even if the noncitizen had previously been deported from the United States, if they were seeking withholding of their removal based upon a fear of return, they were, in practical terms, asking for the prior removal order to be modified. As a result, they should be eligible for a bond hearing as they would have been in the initial proceedings.
This case will affect detained immigrants in several states, as some federal courts – such as in New York, Connecticut, and Virginia – had previously permitted bond hearings in these cases.