Advocacy groups report on NJ immigrant detention
NEWARK — Immigrant rights advocates issued a report this week questioning the process behind a recently awarded contract to expand immigration detention in New Jersey.
Report authors from Pax Christi, Enlace and the Middlesex County Coalition for Immigrant Rights claim the Essex County freeholder board's decision to give the contract to a politically-connected firm was rife with pay-to-play violations, lobbying and "cronyism."
The report questions why the nonprofit firm Education and Health Centers of America Inc., which subcontracts to its for-profit affiliate, Community Education Centers, or CEC, was the sole bidder.
It claims executives and others connected to both companies have made large campaign contributions to various freeholders and those with influence over the contracting process.
An initial bid by the group was cancelled after Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and immigration advocates groups questioned why EHCA had been the sole bidder.
Following the cancellation of a new contract, it was put out for bid again, and EHCA was again the only group to bid.
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said the advocates' report was both unfounded and unfair. He said the contracting process was conducted fairly and openly and would bring a badly needed source of revenue to Essex County.
The report was released Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement choosing Essex County for a detention center to service the New York metropolitan area.