Hudson County, New Jersey, has agreed to continue participating in a program allowing county correctional officers to identify and arrest undocumented immigrants – and advocates who oppose the program are not happy.
On Friday, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise announced that the County Department of Corrections will continue participating in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program for Jails.
Previously, the county had a two-year agreement to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, commonly called 287(g). This agreement expired on June 30.
According to a statement by Hudson County, DeGise requested that the new agreement have no set time limit so it could withdraw from the 287(g) portion of the program in case the PEP’s “standards changed or if it’s impact came to be viewed as a net negative regarding the operation of local law enforcement.” ICE agreed to this request.
Groups that opposed the county’s participation in this program urged local government not to continue the agreement after the expiration date.
“We are disturbed by the decision,” said Chia-Chia Wang, organizing and advocacy director for the immigrant rights program at Newark-based American Friends Service Committee.
She said more than 30 organizations signed a letter addressed to DeGise, the Hudson County freeholders and the director of corrections, urging them not to sign another agreement.
According to statistics provided by Hudson County in a press release, from Oct. 1, 2015 to June 29, 2016, Hudson County Corrections encountered 599 foreign born inmates. Of those, 64 individuals, or 0.78 percent, were flagged by county corrections officers. And of those 64 people, 10 were deported, with the rest either remaining in ICE custody, getting involved with immigration proceedings not detained by ICE, or going into county custody pending criminal charges.
Currently, one ICE-trained county corrections officer per each of the three shifts at the jail is charged with carrying out the 287(g) reviews, according to Hudson County’s statement. Four corrections officers are currently trained by ICE.
The decision to renew this program was made after an almost month-long review that included meetings with immigration activists, ICE officials and the freeholders, according to a statement.
The nature of PEP, which governs 287(g) operations in jail, swayed DeGise’s decision to continue the program. According to the county’s statement, PEP “significantly narrows the category of individuals who may be ‘flagged’ for an ICE ‘detainer’ by local corrections officers to only those who pose a threat to public safety.”