New Jersey Immigrant Advocates Protest Menendez and Booker, Saying Deportations Haven’t Stopped Under Biden

Feb 3, 2021
5:45 PM

Immigrant rights activists blocked traffic at Newark’s Penn Station on February 3, 2020 (Photo provided by Movimiento Cosecha)

According to New Jersey members of immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha, about 50 immigrant rights supporters protested on Wednesday, at one point blocking traffic, in actions directed to Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker that “demanded the immediate release of all detainees at the Bergen County Jail and an end to all detention and deportation across the country,” a Cosecha release said.

Cosecha noted that the protesters included families of undocumented immigrants currently detained by ICE. At one point, the release said, “family members attempted to deliver petitions for Menendez and Booker, signed by 30 ICE detainees from the Bergen County Jail and demanding an end to their indefinite jail. Building security prevented family members from entering and delivering the detainees’ demands, while dozens of immigrant workers and allies rallied outside and in the street in support.”

“We came here today because our loved ones are currently being detained indefinitely in the Bergen County Jail while awaiting decisions in their deportation cases,” said Nohemi, the mother of a detainee who signed the petition. “They are separated from their families and communities and living in unsafe conditions where they are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19. Democrats have said they want to reunify families and President Biden has issued a moratorium on deportations. So why are our families still being separated indefinitely right here in New Jersey?”

ICE detainees at Bergen County Jail went on hunger strike last November to protest conditions. Last December, both Menendez and Booker opposed ICE contracts to jails like the one in Bergen County.

“No governmental entity in New Jersey should be accepting money from ICE to detain individuals, particularly when the agency continues to pursue inhumane, xenophobic policies designed to terrorize and rip apart immigrant families. It has to stop,” Menendez said in December. The New Jersey Democrat is the Senate sponsor of Biden’s immigration reform bill. During a January 21 call about that bill, Menendez said that his “friends in the advocacy and labor communities… have our work cut out for us. We must make the case for immigration reform not just to immigrants and their families but to Americans from all walks of life. We must emphasize why immigration reform is in the moral, economic, and best interests of our country.”

In a December statement about ICE contracts, Booker said the following: “It’s undeniably clear to me that dramatic change is needed, and I am hopeful that the incoming Biden administration will urgently pursue administrative changes as well as legislation to completely reform our immigration system in partnership with Congress. In the meantime, all of us must do our part.”

Immigrant rights activists protest in Newark, February 3, 2021 (Photo provided by Movimiento Cosecha)

Deportations continue to happen under the Biden Administration, despite an executive order to pause some enforcement actions, after a federal judge blocked the Biden order.

“Federal executive action has not had any effect on undocumented immigrants indefinitely detained by ICE in New Jersey,” the Cosecha release said.

“For immigrants detained at the Bergen County Jail, and in detention centers across the country, waiting one more day is simply not an option. If Senators Menendez and Booker really oppose ICE terrorizing their constituents, they need to take action today to release ICE detainees,” said Brenda Valladares, an organizer from Movimiento Cosecha. “The fears of a return to silent mass deportations, criminalization and division of our community, and empty promises of ‘legalization’ are materializing as the incoming Biden Administration takes on the blueprint of the Obama era. With an emboldened ICE and CBP from the last four years of Trump, ending all detention and deportation is imperative to the livelihood of immigrant families across the country along with permanent protection for all the 11 million living here.”

Cosecha New Jersey also shared the following statement: “While more executive orders continue to be issued by the new administration, our community is seeing more deportation and a lack of political willingness to truly fight for ALL undocumented immigrants in this country and address the decades of bipartisan attacks on our families. Just undoing Trump’s policies means a return to millions deported and criminalization and division of our community—a legacy this president will have to reckon with actions, not words. This is why it will be us who hold the line and continue to show the power we hold across this country to ensure we do not make the mistakes of the past and define what our community needs. Because the 11 million will be the heroes that will push for real change and justice for the immigrant community, not the self-described saviors of immigrants that continue to divide and bargain with our humanity and present false promises to our people.”