JERSEY CITY, NJ- A new incoming Administration in Washington, DC, more than $5.6 million in upgrades to the facility, and the reality that the loss of revenue associated with it would be ruinous to the county budget are just a few of the reasons Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise is encouraging members of the Freeholder Board to renew a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees in the Hudson County Corrections and Rehabilitation Center.
Expiring on December 31, the agreement—which in 2018 generated just shy of $28 million for the County—has long been a point of contention between county officials and immigration advocates, and is expected to draw an outpouring of public input at Tuesday’s meeting of the county’s legislative body.
For the Hudson County Executive, the matter is a straightforward one, he told TAPinto during a sit down on Monday. “If not here then where,” he asks only half rhetorically in relation to where the detainees, a number that currently stands at 87, would be held if not in Hudson County. With convenient access to advocates and legal representation, as well as their families, those being held are in a much better position in the confines of the Hudson County Jail than if they were shipped across the country to an out-of-state facility that would welcome them with open arms but not offer them the same basic amenities.
A list of the charges against those being detained, DeGise points out—one that includes murder, 18 sex offenses, robbery, and assault of a police officer—indicates that even without the agreement between Hudson County and ICE those being held would not be free.
In Hudson County, DeGise said, thanks to changes that have been made recently the detainees have access to a variety of programs, including group and individual therapy, introduced to “increase positive social impact,” and benefit from more than $1 million in technology upgrades that make legal services more accessible.
Certainly no newcomer to the world of policymaking, and with decades of hard-nosed political battles behind him, DeGise winces at the characterization some opposed to the continuance of the arrangement have cast his way. “We’ve been called Nazis, accused of taking blood money,” he said, his voice trailing off a bit before adding that with the President Trump era coming to an end in the new year now is the time to sit down with new federal leadership, including at ICE, and make it very clear that when it comes to housing the detainees “what we can and won’t do in Hudson County.”
“We are providing housing and access to programs to people that otherwise wouldn’t be free,” he said. “When they are gone they are gone,” he added, offering an assurance that neither county nor local officials have any interest, and in fact are vehemently opposed to, keeping individuals locked up any longer than necessary.
Painting a picture of what will happen if the contract is allowed to expire DeGise explained that “buses will be lined up” and the detainees will be sent “hundreds and thousands of miles away from their family and advocates.”
If that happens, he asked, “who wins?”
“The detainees don’t win, their families don’t win,” he continued, and the revenue that comes from them staying in Hudson County, DeGise concluded, helps pay the salary of 3,000 workers, improve parks, and provide other essential services. The loss of those dollars, compounded by the economic fallout of COVID-19, would be a “horror show.”
The Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders will meet at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday. Members of the public can join the meeting virtually by clicking here or by telephone by dialing 1 929 436 2866 and entering the Meeting ID number 915 5392 5879.