For years, the prison complex in Essex County, New Jersey, where hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been detained under a deal with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement while awaiting court trials, has been at the forefront of a heated controversy about federal immigration policies, which peaked during the Trump presidency.
This week, the immigrant rights activists who have been staging regular demonstrations outside the jail for months seemed to have gotten what they have long sought: County officials announced Wednesday that they would terminate their deal with ICE, which provided it with accommodation at the Newark prison. Northern New Jersey counties with comparable contracts were willing to follow suit.
Protesters and elected figures, including the state’s two U.S. senators, have been putting pressure on the governor to make the announcement. However, in a sign of the complicated political landscape around immigration even in a predominantly Democratic area of the state, officials stressed that the county’s decision to stop its work for ICE was entirely financial.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said in an interview that the county agreed to terminate the deal only after reaching a more profitable arrangement with nearby Union County to house the prisoners at the Essex jail. He went on to say that he had not caved in to political pressure.