After making a surprise visit last summer, the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security has concluded New Jersey’s Essex County Correctional Facility has “unsanitary and unsafe conditions.” The facility holds about 800 immigrants under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, all awaiting court hearings or to be deported.
The inspectors detailed several troubling findings in their report, including an incident where a detainee found a loaded handgun in a bathroom. The detainee reported the weapon to the jail staff, but the county never notified ICE, per the report. That was the fourth time the county neglected to alert ICE of a security incident.
Inspectors also found “foul smelling and unrecognizable” hamburger patties, blood from raw chicken leaking in the refrigerator and moldy bread set aside to make bread pudding in the kitchen area. Detainees complained to inspectors of food poisoning and stomach infections, and one detainee was on a liquid-only diet. Inspectors also found moldy shower stalls and liquid dripping from ceilings in housing units, sometimes landing on detainees’ beds.
Al Ortiz, the director of the Essex County Correctional Facility, said the jail received a perfect compliance rating from the state and is recognized by the American Correctional Association. “We are proud of our proactive approach to meet the needs of our detainees and the high standards of care that we have set for our facility,” Ortiz said. An ICE representative told WNYC the facility had improved its food storage issues after the inspection last July. WNYC
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New York State to Renew Immigrant Legal Representation Contract
On Friday, New York State renewed its contract with the Vea Institute for Justice to continue funding representation for detained immigrants who can’t afford a lawyer. The state began representing immigrants in July 2017. Last year, the Vera Institute said it needed $4.55 million to continue its work in 2019. Attorneys said the funding is positive, but should also be extended to immigrants who aren’t facing deportation. The program does not represent any of the hundreds of asylum seekers who were transferred to an Albany jail last year. Albany Times Union
Uber Will Challenge Rideshare Cap
New York City taxi drivers rejoiced last August when the city council voted to limit the number of rideshare vehicles allowed on the city’s streets, halving new licenses for for-hire vehicles for a year while they studied the situation. Rideshare companies have decimated the yellow cab market, causing the price of taxi medallions to plummet. Nearly ten taxi workers have committed suicide in this dire financial situation. In a complaint filed by Uber in the state Supreme Court, Uber asked the city to remove the cap and claimed Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning on making the cap permanent. CNN
Immigrant Advocacy Groups Rejoice After Amazon Announces Departure
Amazon’s Thursday announcement of its departure from New York was a hard-won victory for immigrant advocacy groups who protest the company’s planned move to Long Island City. That includes groups such as Desis Rising Up and Moving, Make the Road New York and Chhaya Community Development Corporation. Chhaya CDC is a nonprofit providing social services and support to South Asian immigrants. Director Annetta Seecharan told News India Times the group fought against the plan because “it would have had a devastating impact on Queens,” and the promised jobs “were not designed for people in our communities.” News India Times
ICE Stops Force-feeding Hunger Strikers
ICE has stopped force-feeding nine immigrants from India who were conducting a hunger strike in a detention center in El Paso, Texas. As of Thursday last week, 12 detainees are on a hunger strike in the center. Two of them haven’t eaten since December of last year. Last month, ICE confirmed it was force-feeding nine of the hunger strikers via a tube inserted into their nostrils and down their throat. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the practice could be a violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. NPR
Ecuadorian Bankers Arrested by ICE
ICE arrested two millionaire fugitives from Ecuador in Miami last Wednesday, taking them to a detention facility. Roberto and William Isías are bankers convicted of embezzlement in the late 1990’s after wiping out thousands of their customers’ savings. They were sentenced to prison terms in absentia. Ecuador says the brothers cost the country $400 million. The brothers donated thousands of dollars to U.S. congressional races and $90,000 to former President Barack Obama’s campaign. The Obama administration refused to honor the extradition request, saying it lacked proof, but affirming it was not related to the brothers’ political donations. The New York Time
Trump to Tighten Child Spouse Immigration Restrictions
The Trump administration introduced new rules to review petitions filed to bring underage spouses to the United States after The Associated Press revealed the government authorized thousands of underage spouses’ entrance into the country. More than 5,000 adults have petitioned the U.S. to bring spouses who were minors into the country and nearly 3,000 minors have attempted to bring in spouses, AP found. The new rules will not stop child marriage, but USCIS officials hope they will deter forced marriages. “USCIS is taking action to the maximum extent permitted under current immigration law to highlight special considerations in the adjudication of marriage-based immigrant petitions involving a minor,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. Associated Press
Migrant Caravan Members Return Home or Stay in Mexico
Thousands of migrant caravan members appear to have given up their chance at winning asylum in America, Mexican officials say. About 6,000 asylum seekers traveled through Central America, arriving in northern Mexico in November. But since then, more than 1,000 have accepted an offer to be sent home by the Mexican government. Another 1,000 have decided to remain in Mexico. Many caravan members who both stayed in Mexico or decided to return home weren’t eligible for asylum, according to Mexican officials. Trump’s hardline policies, however, run the risk of discouraging people who do qualify for asylum. The New York Times
21 Savage Opens Up About Detention and Undocumented Childhood After Release
Rapper 21 Savage, whose legal name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was released from ICE custody last Wednesday on $100,000 bond. His arrest and subsequent detention drew national attention and outrage from the music industry. Shortly after his release, Abraham-Joseph spoke to the New York Times about his childhood, coming to the U.S. and living as an undocumented person, as well as his experience being detained. “It really wasn’t jail, it was the possibility of me not being able to live in this country no more that I’ve been living in my whole life,” he said. The New York Times
Washington — Legal Challenges Mount as White House Defends National Emergency
The White House and President Trump are not backing down from a national emergency declaration, which will be used to pay for barriers along 230 miles of desert at the Southwestern border. Trump’s attempt to circumvent Congress with this order was immediately challenged in court by California’s attorney general, and attorneys general from six other states quickly joined in.
The move calls for billions of dollars already appropriated for the Department of Defense to shift toward construction efforts. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said Friday during a speech to reporters.Trump also said he could build the wall over a long timeframe, questioning just how much of an emergency the immigration situation supposedly is.
In a Fox News interview, Senior Adviser Stephen Miller defended the president’s emergency declaration, saying there is currently an “increasing number of people crossing” the border. Customs and Border Protection statistics show that is false. Lawmakers are divided over whether the emergency declaration is legitimate or not, or if it sets a dangerous precedent for executive power. Democrats are preparing to repeal the national emergency with a resolution, which Trump would likely veto. It is unclear whether Congress could gather a majority to outdo Trump’s veto. Multiple legal advocacy organizations have also filed lawsuits against the administration or are preparing to do so. The Washington Post
Democrats rejected a GOP-led effort to amend legislation that would alert ICE if undocumented immigrants purchasing a firearm failed a background check. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced the amendment as part of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which was introduced by House Democrats. Read the amendment.
The Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit about the Trump administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The question will likely affect how many people are willing to participate in the census, causing some locations to be undercounted and lose federal funding that draws on census data. Last month, a federal judge blocked the Commerce Department from including the question. The Supreme Court will now fast-track the case, scheduling arguments for late April and a ruling before the end of June. The New York Times
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