Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hundreds of new immigrants detained  in Essex County, N.J., will have cases heard by video  - NY Daily News

Hundreds of new immigrants detained in Essex County, N.J., will have cases heard by video - NY Daily News

Hundreds of new immigrants detained in Essex County, N.J., will have cases heard by video

They'll talk to camera, not judge

Sunday, November 6 2011, 5:04 PM

Members of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Team raid a home in Amityville, Long Island Thursday.
Craig Warga/New York Daily News
Members of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Team raid a home in Amityville, Long Island Thursday.

Hundreds of new immigrant detainees coming to New Jersey as part of a $50 million federal contract won’t be pleading their case directly to a judge — they’ll talk to a camera instead.

Attorneys with clients in facilities that are adding 750 more immigrants — Newark’s Delaney Hall and Essex County Jail — say they were frustrated to learn most new detainees will get video teleconference hearings.

Lawyers have to decide whether to be with their clients or with the judge.

“It’s easier to ignore a TV than it is a person,” said Elissa Steglich, a managing attorney at American Friends Service Committee.

“These are life-altering decisions that are being made and you want the judge to know your client as much as can be. Having it be an artificial knowledge through technology is uncomfortable and I don’t think accomplishes justice.”

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said some of the new detainees in Essex County will get in-person hearings — but he said video teleconferences are more efficient.

“It also lessens the workload of staff regarding the tracking and accountability of aliens out of the facility,” said ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls.

Video teleconferencing is increasingly used by immigration courts across the country — and has been framed as a cost-cutting measure in areas where judges are hundreds of miles from detention centers.

At some New York-area detention centers — like Varick St. in Manhattan and Elizabeth in New Jersey — judges have a permanent courtroom. But Delaney Hall, which is set to house up to 450 immigrants, will not get its own judge. Detainees there will be seen over video by judges in the Elizabeth detention center 7.1 miles away.

A Georgetown Immigration Law Journal study of 2004 and 2005 asylum hearings found that immigrants with in-person hearings were nearly twice as likely to get asylum than those who had a hearing by video.

“The video conference presents tremendous due process concerns,” said Ruthie Epstein of Human Rights First, which outlined video worries in an October report on the detention system.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs immigration courts, maintains the process is fair.

Video teleconferencing isn’t the only issue advocates are upset about as New Jersey moves to house hundreds more immigrants.

While ICE has touted Delaney Hall as an example of a more “civil” facility — with windows that let in natural light and where detainees have access to email — the county’s plan to open up space for immigrants in the rehab center building has been plagued with troubles.

In August, Essex County officials came under scrutiny for awarding a single-bid immigration detention contract to Community Education Centers, the company with political ties to Gov. Chris Christie that was already running a rehab program in Delaney Hall.

County officials later scrapped the plan and called for more bidders, saying they hope to select a new contractor by December.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/hundreds-immigrants-detained-essex-county-n-cases-heard-video-article-1.973035#ixzz1dAAPjzhI

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frank Lopez of the Peace Poets at Redefining Cruel & Unusual Protest in Newark 10-9-11 on Vimeo

Frank Lopez of the Peace Poets at Redefining Cruel & Unusual Protest in Newark 10-9-11 on Vimeo

Sign the petition at change.org/​petitions/​oppose-expansion-of-immigration-detention-at-...

Redefining Cruel & Unusual : Indefinite Immigration Detention for-Profit Amid Toxic Waste in Essex County Protest, Rally & March on October 9th @ 1:30 pm
Beginning at Peter Francisco Park, Newark, NJ & marching to Essex County Correctional Facility & Delaney Hall (356 Doremus Ave, Newark, NJ)

Extracts of the press relase (which can be viewed here: facebook.com/​event.php?eid=236419679741397 ) follow:


Residents of New Jersey To March to the Essex County Jail to protest freeholders decision to Put Revenue Before Human Rights in approving a contract to house immigrant detainees at controversial Essex County Correctional Facility and Neighboring Delaney Hall .

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ -- Concerned New Jersey residents including members of Pax Christi NJ and more than 20 immigrant rights and religious organizations from New York and New Jersey will march from Peter Francisco Park in Newark, NJ, to the Essex County Correctional Facility on Sunday in opposition to a new contract with Essex County that would expand immigration detention at the jail and the neighboring privately run Delaney Hall to house up to 1,250 immigrant detainees. The jail has been accused of inhumane conditions including proximity to active polluters and toxic waste sites; restrictions on visits from family, lawyers, and clergy; concerns about adequate food and general safety; and a denial to access of medical services.

"The Essex County Executive and the Freeholders want us to believe that they can spin the misery of the immigrants in their custody into gold for the rest of the residents of Essex County, but they are perpetuating an environment in which profit is the primary motivator while shirking their responsibility for oversight," said faith leader Kathy O'Leary, who launched an online campaign on Change.org. She and Pax Christi NJ, the organization she represents, are a part of a statewide coalition of organizations which has been engaging the chosen freeholders in private and public meetings since January, consistently asking that the no new contract with ICE be approved prior to completing a thorough investigation of allegations of human rights abuses and violations of NJ law at the jail and instituting a community review board to ensure facilities comply with all applicable standards.

Participants and the coalition members are hoping to send the message that New Jersey residents are upset with the Freeholders' decision. A large coalition of faith groups is asking that the Freeholders ensure visiting hours that include evenings and weekends; contact visits for family members; no restrictions on visits, phone calls, and other contact with lawyers and clergy; adequate mental and physical health care; healthy food that complies with dietary restrictions and religious observances; unrestricted access to communal religious services; and regular outdoor recreation free from exposure to hazardous environmental conditions. The online petition on Change.org has already garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

ICE is saying the move to Essex is an attempt to improve conditions, but advocates disagree. "The policy of mandatory immigration detention is bad enough, but what ICE is holding up as the model of immigration detention for the entire country is a jail and a hastily partitioned penal facility next to active polluters and toxic waste in the middle of what is known as 'chemical corridor.' How is that an improvement? How can anyone call that more humane?" said Cynthia Mellon Environmental Justice & Community Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation.

The event was co-sponsored by: Action 21; Action for Justice Community Church of NY Unitarian Universalist; American Friends Service Committee, Immigrant Rights Program-Newark; Bergen County Branch/People's Organization for Progress; Casa Esperanza; Casa Freehold; CEUS; Community of Friends in Action, Inc.; Immigration Task Force, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey; Felician Sisters of Lodi; Ironbound Community Corporation; Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; NJ DREAM Act Coalition; Pax Christi NJ; Riverside Sojourners Immigration Detention Visitor Project; St. Stephan's Grace Community -- ELCA; Sisters of Mercy, Mid-Atlantic Justice Office; Social Responsibility Council of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood; Unidad Latina en Accion- NJ; Wind of the Spirit