Hudson Civic Action statement delivered September 14 at meeting of Hudson County Freeholders
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Laura Keller, I live in Weehawken, and I’m a member of the group Hudson Civic Action. I want to speak to you about 287(g) and Fair and Welcoming Community resolutions in Hudson County. As you know, three cities in Hudson County recently passed Fair and Welcoming Community resolutions—Jersey City in February, Union City also in February, and West New York in May. [Note – I learned after I spoke that Kearny has also passed a Fair and Welcoming resolution.] Those three cities together represent well over half of the population of Hudson County. Also, as a resident of Weehawken, I can tell you there’s a movement to pass a Fair and Welcoming Community resolution in my town. Basically, since President Trump ended the Priority Enforcement Program in January, there has been a groundswell of support in Hudson County for immigrant rights, documented and undocumented alike.
But there’s only so much that can be done on the municipal level. The first and most important point of the Fair and Welcoming Community resolution regards denying local resources to enforce federal immigration law. That can only be accomplished on the county level, as the primary location of cooperation with ICE is in the county correctional facility under the 287(g) program.
287(g) is unnecessary. ICE has plenty of other tools – and lots of federal money – to detain dangerous criminals. Truly dangerous criminals can be apprehended by ICE with a judicial criminal warrant. And, of course, ICE aside, New Jersey has its own criminal justice system, separate from the civil immigration system, that deals with minor and major offenders, citizen and non-citizen all the same, as it should be. When two people commit the same crime, the punishment should be the same, non-citizens shouldn’t be subject to a separate, much harsher system, where they are denied the right to an attorney. There is no need to use valuable local resources to help ICE sidestep our criminal justice system.
287(g) is also entirely voluntary. Hudson County is one of only four counties that have 287(g) agreements out of the 21 counties in New Jersey. It’s also the only county in north Jersey to have a 287(g) agreement. Our neighboring counties, Bergen and Essex, both have Intergovernmental Service Agreements (aka bed contracts) but not 287(g) agreements. Hudson County’s agreement can be terminated at any time and should be terminated immediately.
Lastly, and most importantly, 287(g) is morally wrong. ICE’s agenda is xenophobic, and, in my opinion, against everything we stand for as Americans. Because ICE is a large, powerful federal agency, there’s very little we can do on the local level to constrain its mission, a mission that often results in separating families, terrorizing communities, and denying fundamental human rights. However, we have a moral imperative to do what we can. Ending 287(g) and enacting a Fair and Welcoming Resolution are two things that we must do to push back against the dangerous ICE agenda.
To sum up: 287(g) is unnecessary, voluntary, and morally wrong. Ending 287(g) in Hudson County would make our criminal and civil justice systems more fair, it would make members of immigrant communities more likely to report crimes and cooperate with police, and it would maintain the reputation of Hudson County, which has always been at the very center of the American melting pot, as a truly just place, where diverse communities can live together and thrive together, knowing that local officials truly represent everyone who lives here. Thank you for your time.