For Immediate Release
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo finally broke his silence and defended his blood money contract to imprison immigrants at the county jail to WNYC’s Matt Katz in a story on the stations’ website. “My job,” the four-term Democrat explained, “is to keep taxes at a minimum and to bring in revenue.” Joe D. said of the County’s ICE contract: “We’re doing it because someone has to do it, and we know we can do it better than anyone else.” Asked about whether he was sidelining moral ideals for cash, he scoffed. “It’s absurd,” DiVincenzo said. “We’re doing our job here. It’s the law. And whatever immigrants we have here we’re treating with care.”
“Just substitute the word ‘slaves’ for ‘immigrants’ and any slave catcher in the 1850’s could have said the same thing,” said Jay Arena, the Jobs and Equal Rights for all Candidate for Essex County Executive, in response to DiVincenzo’s remarks. “Joe D. is just as wrong as the slave catchers were in helping to enforce unjust and unconstitutional laws,” Arena added. “It is time he takes heed of the demand of a growing movement and respect the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees equal rights for all, including immigrants. He can show that respect for the Constitution by immediately ending his contract with ICE.”
DiVincenzo and the county DO NOT have to imprison immigrants for ICE. Local governments are NOT required to imprison ICE detainees. Furthermore, under the contract that the county has with ICE, either party can break the contract with four months’ notice. This is what the Jobs and Equal Rights for All campaign and a growing movement in Essex County and around the county has been demanding.
While DiVincenzo claims to treat detainees “with care”, a February 2018 study by Human Rights First found deplorable conditions at the Essex County facility, as well as at the Hudson County facility and the privately-run facility in Elizabeth, NJ.
Furthermore, these facilities, in contrast to what their defenders claim, do not guarantee that detainees will be kept close to their families. For example, immigrant rights activist Jean Montrevil was arrested in Queens in January by ICE after dropping his children off at school. He was first dragged to Newark but then quickly shuttled to Miami and finally deported to Haiti where he had not lived for decades.
DiVincenzo claims to honor Dr. King, erecting a statue of the slain civil rights leader in front of the Essex County Hall of Records, and establishing the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, which last year was given to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. He would do well to actually study what King said about obeying the law.
Dr. King wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, that “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” The immigration laws are unjust and unconstitutional. They deserve to be abolished, not obeyed.