ICE contract extended while Murphy dawdles on legislative ban

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has extended its contract withCore Civic, the private company that runs the Elizabeth Contract Detention Center in New Jersey until August 31, 2023, the ICE-ERO Newark office confirmed.

CoreCivic has managed the Elizabeth private, for-profit prison site since 1997.

A bill that would prevent ICE contracts from being extended has been sitting on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk since June, but his failure to sign it into law means New Jersey will have two more years of CoreCivic’s human warehousing operation in Elizabeth.

"We want ICE out," said human rights advocates who criticized the Democratic governor because legislation banning ICE detention in New Jersey has awaited Murphy’s signature for weeks.

Now the State Bar Association has come out against it, arguing that detainees will end up being transferred far away instead of getting released.

"That may give Murphy ammo to veto, which would infuriate immig activists," said WNYC/NPR reporter Matt Katz.

In a lawsuit filed only days after Democratic officials in Essex County announced they would stop housing ICE detainees by August, owners of the windowless former warehouse that houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees in Elizabeth are suing to terminate CoreCivic’s lease alleging dangerous conditions at the facility.

Democratic leaders in Hudson County, which also holds ICE detainees at its county jail, signaled that they might cancel a recently renewed 10-year contract with ICE.

Meanwhile, the sheriff in Bergen County said that jail is no longer admitting additional ICE detainees.

The suit was filed in Union County by Portview Properties, which is affiliated with Elberon Development Group. Elberon and its politically connected owner, Anne Evans Estabrook, and her son, Dave Gibbons, had been targeted by activists through their philanthropic endeavors. Both serve on boards at Kean University, and Estabrook is on the board of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

Last year, Elberon publicly announced that it was seeking to cut ties with CoreCivic. But CoreCivic, the largest private prison operator in the country, refused to end the arrangement and told investors it would stay until its lease expired, in 2027. Now, in the lawsuit, Elberon documents how CoreCivic mishandled Covid protocols, arguing that its failure to implement safety measures required by the Centers for Disease Control means that it breached its contract with ICE “and, therefore, its lease agreement.” It notes that 51 detainees have contracted Covid at the facility, according to ICE data.

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