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CoreCivic Signs $20 Million Deal To Jail Immigrants for ICE in New Jersey

Advocates rally for the closure of Elizabeth Detention Center outside the Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse in Trenton, New Jersey, on Monday. Photo: Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio for Documented

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CoreCivic have extended their contract at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey, according to a notice issued by the federal agency, after a federal judge struck down a provision of a state law on Tuesday that would have forced the privately-owned detention center to close.

Also Read: ICE Can Renew Elizabeth Detention Contract After NJ Judge Ruling

The agreement between CoreCivic and ICE at the Elizabeth, New Jersey facility was modified to extend their contract for up to 12 months, according to ICE’s Office of Acquisition Management. The contract would have expired Thursday if the judge ruled in New Jersey’s favor. But now, Elizabeth will remain the only open immigration detention center in New Jersey.

ICE declined to comment on the outcome of the litigation proceedings. 

The modified contract between CoreCivic and ICE at the Elizabeth facility for up to 12 months is valued at $19,913,376, and includes a 6-month base period with a six 6-month option period, according to a public document from ICE’s Office of Acquisition Management.

Elizabeth Detention Center is the closest immigration detention facility to New York City, and immigrants living in the city are often detained there. It has a maximum capacity to hold about 300 people.

“Using a currently operational facility will provide for a continuity of services and prevent any regional impact to ICE operations,” ICE said in the Office of Acquisition Management document, justifying the contract extension. “CoreCivic is uniquely positioned to continue providing comprehensive secure detention services at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility on an immediate and uninterrupted basis.”

ICE said that earlier this year, the agency posted a formal request for information to identify sites where they could hold detained immigrants for the Newark Field Office. The agency received four responses, including from CoreCivic. 

Ryan Gustin, a spokesperson for CoreCivic, requested that Documented refer contract-related questions to ICE.

Also Read: Revenues Soar for Private Prisons Detaining Immigrants

The New Jersey legislation enacted in 2021, AB 5207, banned new, renewed or extended immigration detention contracts in the state. Under AB 5207, the Elizabeth Detention Center would have had to shut down once the contract expired. But in February, CoreCivic filed a lawsuit against New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in an effort to keep the Elizabeth facility open, and the United States Department of Justice later submitted a statement of interest backing CoreCivic.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, Robert Kirsch, sided with CoreCivic and the United States, calling the existing New Jersey legislation a “dagger aimed at the heart of the federal government’s immigration enforcement mission and operations.”

Immigration advocates and New Jersey elected representatives criticized the Biden administration’s decision to support CoreCivic’s lawsuit, and expressed disillusionment in Judge Kirsch’s move to block this provision of AB 5207.

Congressman Rob Menendez, who represents New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District – which includes Elizabeth – said in a statement this week that the continued operation of the Elizabeth facility went against the state and district’s “values and wishes.” 

The Elizabeth Detention Center, Menendez said, is “unwelcome in our district and in New Jersey.”

“This ruling does not mean the end of our fight. We will continue to stand alongside the State of New Jersey, advocates, and all those working to achieve justice until this facility is finally closed,” he said.

Christi Peace, a spokesperson for Gov. Murphy’s Office, said in a statement that the the Governor was “disappointed” that the federal court’s decision to overturn part of the state law banning private immigration detention agreements “led to the extension of this contract at the Elizabeth Detention Center.”

“The Governor understands the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will be appealing the federal court’s recent decision in an effort to allow for the reinstatement of the entirety of this important law,” Peace said.

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio is a Report for America Corps Member who covers immigration for Documented, where she focuses on immigration courts and detention.

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