New Jersey Citizens March Against For-Profit Immigrant Detention
On Sunday, October 9, over 125 faith leaders, children, families and concerned community members marched through Newark, New Jersey to oppose the expansion of a controversial immigrant detention center.
Holding signs that read "Immigrants are not commodities" and "Do not jail our neighbor", the crowd marched down Doremus Avenue and through what locals have dubbed "chemical corridor", where the current detention center is located and the proposed expansion would be built within a dangerous distance of several known superfund sites.
Essex County freeholders maintain that the expansion, while "unpleasant", is a way to bring money into the county's struggling economy. On Sunday, the marchers made it clear that the indefinite detention of immigrants for profit (especially in an area known for environmental health risks) isn't merely "unpleasant", it is unjust. "This experiment of Essex County simply for profit is an immoral move. The county is profiting on splitting up families and the indignity of detention," said Frank Costanza, a member of IRATE and First Friends. (via NY Daily News)
Kathy O'Leary, who started a Change.org petition to oppose the expansion and demand better conditions, said she was happy with the size of the crowd at Sunday's march. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd was proof that the proposed expansion has sparked the community to action. After listening to a set from the Catholic Worker Band the crowd marched to Delaney House, the current detention center that houses 800 immigrant detainees. Along the way they saw signs that have earned "chemical corridor" its nickname: a stream overflowing with trash, the smell of raw sewage and chemicals growing stronger and abandoned factories littering the area, which was a center of industry for decades before falling into decline.Ralph Caputo
, vice president of the freeholder board went on the record saying "this is a very unpleasant way to get revenue, but it's going to be helpful", causing concerned community members to question who would benefit from the deal. A handful of marchers held signs on Sunday read "Ralph Caputo: Detention is not 'helpful' for immigrants." This point was driven home as community members stood up to testify to their own time spent in Essex County detention. Many of the immigrants detained (sometimes for years) in these facilities have no criminal charges, rather they have lapsed visas or other civil violations.
Perhaps most damning is that the contractor originally awarded the bid on the expansion of the facility, CEC (Community Education Centers), has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Essex County Freeholders' campaigns, including the County Executive. Among those who have benefitted from said donations is Mr. Caputo.
Sunday's march brought even more attention to the fight the local community is waging against using immigrants for profit and county freeholders are facing ever stronger opposition. Sign Kathy's petition and join the the fight.