The Essex County Commissioners have finally promised to end the contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has illegally detained refugees who have never been convicted of a crime. After years of tremendous activism by dedicated constituents, bravo to the Essex County administration for listening to the voices of Essex County residents.
But the Commissioners are far from exonerated. The refugees are still detained by ICE and are at risk of imminent relocation to other states, away from local family members, advocacy groups and legal assistance. The county administration has yet to support release of these refugees, as has been demanded by immigrant rights groups. Furthermore, the county continues to believe the prison-industrial complex is a legitimate source of county revenues. Essex will continue the mass incarceration of mostly black and brown people from Union County, with an expected $11.3 million in revenues replacing the lost income from ICE.
Essex County elected officials should use their influence and power to ensure these ICE refugees are released and help make progress towards national policy change blocking unethical ICE policies. They should fully answer the call to stop financing the county on the backs of people of color.