Hudson County refused to cooperate with ICE raids

Trump tweet created panic and protests, raising concerns

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Hudson County Correctional Facility
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Hudson County Correctional Facility

A tweet posted by President Donald Trump in early July claiming massive immigration raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement would take place throughout the nation between July 13 to 15 sent protesters to the streets and many immigrants apparently into hiding.

But Hudson County officials refused to cooperate with the threatened raids and said they would not take the detainees generated, if and when the raids took place.

“We made it clear we do not want to be part of breaking up families,” said Freeholder Bill O’Dea, when contacted about the raids. “We spoke with the jail director and he agreed not to accept any of the detainees.

Trump’s tweet said, “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people.”

Although information is scarce about how many people Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up, estimates included possibly as many as 2,000 or more in nine cities that included Jersey City.

ICE issued letters in February to families with members who have orders to leave the country, and they are believed to have been the target of the raids. But activists said many more could be picked up.

ICE frequently looks through jail records for people charged with other crimes, but who have been detained in jail beyond the time their visa allows. But often ICE agents go to people’s homes or job sites.

Murphy resisted

Many elected officials nationwide have been sharply critical of Trump’s tweet, among them New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who publicly pushed back before the weekend the raids were scheduled, saying that the state is proactively reaching out to immigrant communities to let them know of available assistance.

The president’s tweet prompted Murphy to announce that state officials would not cooperate with the raids, although some sheriff’s departments elsewhere in New Jersey said they would.

Hudson County has a contract with ICE to hold detainees in its correctional facility in Kearny, but under a directive from the freeholders, said the jail would not accept detainees from this raid.

County jail policy clarified

“To clarify and dispel any rumors as to Hudson County’s assistance with ICE raids scheduled this weekend,” said Ronald Edwards, director of Hudson County Correctional Facility, “our Department of Corrections has no involvement with the ICE raids. I met with ICE officials this morning, at which I was informed all individuals from these raids will be taken to Family Detention Centers in Pennsylvania or California. Contrary to the media reports the raids started this morning and plan to continue through Sunday. ICE was informed that we will be not take any new ICE detainees (including criminals) until further notice.”

Hudson County has been target of activists for its role in housing those detained by ICE. But officials said part of the logic in remaining a facility is not to have local detainees taken to other facilities far from their families and legal resources.

Hudson County Correctional Facility has had serious issues regarding detainees and other prisoners over the last three years, including several deaths. Reports from independent agencies showed deficiencies in areas such as allowing family access to the detainees, providing adequate medical treatment and a need for psychological services. Many of these issues have been addressed by the county. But activists have been pushing the county to stop serving as a detention center.

County Execute Tom DeGise said he did not want to step into the middle of a battle that must be dealt with on a federal level.

“We do what we have to do,” DeGise said. “We’re not arresting these people. We are not part of that argument. All we do is house them. We’ve been doing this since 1996. This needs to be settled in Washington, D.C. But probably the best way to solve this is to elect a new president next year.”

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com