Elizabeth, NJ—On Wednesday, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) visited the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility (CDF), the largest US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in New Jersey.
“It has been over a year since my last visit to the Elizabeth detention center and the ramifications of the President’s divisive rhetoric and antipathy toward asylum seekers remain on full display,” said Mr. Pallone in a statement issued after his visit.
The facility holds approximately 300 immigrant detainees. Mr. Pallone described his interactions with some of the detainees.
“Sadly, the conditions and stories from my last visit have not changed. I spoke with over 40 detainees who fled persecution and violence in their home countries, hoping only to find refuge for themselves and their families in the United States. Each person I spoke to had a powerful story to tell. I met a Christian woman from Kenya who faced religious persecution and violence. I spoke to a man from Venezuela and a man from a Central Asian country both facing state sponsored political persecution. I also heard from a Central American woman who was forced out of her country for setting up a program to help survivors of domestic violence,” he said.
Mr. Pallone also addressed the Trump Administration’s planned regulations which would allow the government to indefinitely detain migrant families who illegally cross the border. A policy dating back to 1997, known as the Flores agreement, set limits for holding children in immigration custody.
However, on Wednesday, the Trump Administration unveiled a new regulation that would replace the Flores agreement. The Administration has stated that new rule will serve as a deterrent and discontinue current practices which Mr. Trump has referred to as “catch and release.”
“Today, the government has issued a critical rule that will permit the Department of Homeland Security to appropriately hold families together and improve the integrity of the immigration system,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan in a press release announcing the new regulations. “This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress and ensures that all children in U.S. government custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability.”
“It is frankly un-American to see the Trump Administration attempt to terminate the Flores agreement and push to indefinitely imprison families and asylum seekers once they cross the border into the United States. We must never forget that we are a nation of immigrants that is strengthened at home and around the world when we treat the most vulnerable and impoverished among us in a humanitarian and fair manner just as many of our families were when they first came to this country,” said Mr. Pallone.