Residents region-wide continued to speak out against Hudson County’s decision to renew its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week.
This comes after the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders voted 6-3 on Nov. 24 to renew their contract with ICE to house their detainees at Hudson County Correctional Facility for $120 per person per day despite nearly nine hours of public comment in opposition.
The public hasn’t pulled any punches and continues to express dissent, from addressing the freeholders at their recent meeting on Dec. 10 to protests in the form of vigils outside of County Executive Tom DeGise’s home.
Following five consecutive nights of vigils and flyer distribution in the Jersey City Heights neighborhood where DeGise lives, DeGise and four other Hudson County freeholders obtained a temporary restraining order against five named defendants, all associated with the Abolish ICE NY/NJ Coalition, and up to 20 “John Does and Jane Roes.”
The restraining order issued by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski on Dec. 8 effectively bans protest within 200 feet of the home of Tom DeGise. The order also names Freeholders Anthony Vainieri, Caridad Rodriguez, Kenneth Kopacz, Albert Cifelli, and Anthony Romano as plaintiffs.
It also when protests can be held to once every two weeks, as well as limits attendance to no more than 10 people.
When dozens of citizens showed up in front of DeGise’s home last week, they were met by Hudson County Sheriff’s Department officers who ordered them to disperse and arrested at least four people.
Jersey City resident Amy Torres, a member of the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, said on Twitter that she found out about the restraining order she is named in from the media, adding that the arrests were political retaliation and intimidation.
“The County Executive and Freeholder’s refusal to hear their constituents prior to renewal, despite regular engagement over the last two years, has meant that daily vigil was the public’s only option left,” Torres said. “Law enforcement officers wielding legal documents and misrepresenting their authority is something that is all too familiar in Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. Too many Hudson residents whose families fled repressive regimes in countries abroad will find a familiar and haunting echo in the County Executive’s decision to use local media and the courts against the very public who have been begging through every other public channel to be heard.”
Union City resident and attorney Hector Oseguera, who is not personally named in the restraining order, was one of those arrested.
“When the brutality of the government’s enforcement agencies is unleashed in the name of security, it is inevitable that it will also be used to tamp down dissent,” he said.
In an op-ed for NJ.com, DeGise called protesters “left-wing extremists,” claiming they threatened him and his wife and continuously disrupted the neighborhood.
“It’s hard for me to believe how they think that terrorizing a neighborhood and threatening my wife and me, are going to produce any of the results they are looking for,” he wrote, adding that he won’t “bend to extremism, whether it’s from the right or the left.”
During the roughly five-hour freeholder meeting on Dec. 10, public speakers continued to admonish the board and county executive for failing to end the contract this year as promised in 2018.
Jersey City resident Gary Spingarn said the board is taking “blood money,” stating they are “self-serving machine produced politicians with no regard for the public.”
“This board constantly presents straw man arguments and platitudes, gaslighting statements, to justify taking blood money from an institution that is in one business and one business only-crimes against humanity.” he said. “More jails give ICE more power.”
“It’s not a secret that there’s not only racism in America, but there’s a whole lot of racism in Hudson County, and in fact, many of those who sit on this board,” said Elizabeth resident Kason Little, named in the restraining order.
“The fact that the current administration had the audacity and wanted to sign onto the restraining orders to restrain me and other innocent protesters from doing our due diligence … to hold you accountable. Let me say this: if you can’t take the heat, stop sitting in those damn seats. You should resign in shame,” he said, noting that the country was built by immigrants.
Torres addressed the board tearfully expressing how her family immigrated to New Jersey from the Philippines, stating that the county is using the same “repressive tactics to silence constituent voices” as in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos regime, noting that the “county continues to put immigrant communities last.”
“You are profiting off of the suffering and detention of immigrant communities that did not have it as easy as those of you whose families came here when there were no records on votes. When you could just walk right on through Ellis Island,” she said.
Other speakers questioned the freeholder’s motivations, asking them to defend their votes to approve the contract and what steps they took to help the county leave the agreement. But the board remained mostly quiet, with Vainieri simply stating, “Not worth even telling you, sir.”