For Immediate Release
December 18th, 2020
Carlos Castañeda, Cosecha NJ firstname.lastname@example.org
(908) 487 8148
Jorge Torres, NDLON email@example.com 203-278-2729
Kathy O’Leary, Pax Christi NJ firstname.lastname@example.org (973) 610-1684
The Hunger Strikes At Bergen Have Ended,
But Support for Their Resistance Continues-
Community Organizations Coming Together for
Noche De Resistencia Popular (Night of Popular Resistance)
HACKENSACK, NJ — On Sunday, December 20th beginning at 1:30 pm community members will gather to show solidarity and honor the brave men who undertook a hunger strike for 30 days in order to gain their freedom from ICE detention at the Bergen County Jail.
Who: Cosecha NJ, Unidad Latina en Acción, South Jersey Solidarity Coalition, Faith in NJ, Pax Christi NJ, ICE Free NJ, NDLON, and Mexicanos Unidos
along with community members, performers, and more.
What: A community event in solidarity with hunger strikers and people detained at BCJ accompanied by music, performances, and powerful speakers from the community
Where: In front of the Bergen County Jail- 160 S. River St.
When: 1:30 pm to 6 pm
On November 13th, 9 men began a hunger strike demanding their liberation from Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) custody at Bergen County Jail (BCJ). Throughout the 31 days of hunger strike, the men endured acts of retaliation by ICE and the Bergen County Jail, including: denial of water, denial of medical care, denial of heat, blocked windows, manipulation from facility staff, and the threat of transfer. The strikers and other detainees have spoken against the inhumane conditions that to this day continue to deteriorate the BCJ. A rodent infestation has been impacting the entire facility since at least the summer and the men in detention who are responsible for cleaning the spaces are given few cleaning supplies that are ineffective.
At least four of the men who began the hunger strike were transferred to other facilities in order to get them away from the protests outside the jail; ignoring the power of the protest inside the jail itself.
Organizers, like P. Solares from Unidad Latina en Acción, want to make clear that they are uplifting the demand of the men inside for their release, “What the detainees in Bergen are suffering is inhumane. As someone who spent time in a detention center myself, I can say that no one should have to experience that. The community demands the release of those in Bergen County, and I am calling everyone to do the same. We can’t be treated like this anymore.”
This account of a mother whose son is currently being detained at BCJ: “Just thinking of the separation from my son, is so painful and I feel great pain in my heart. My son was arrested in December of last year just around this Christmas time. He was taken away from his wife and 8-month old son. He was at Essex County and then transferred to Bergen County – where they have to be surrounded by rats. And also drinking dirty water that is not fair. He has been working there for more than a month doing cleaning and without receiving a salary- they told him it was $7 dollars a week but has not been paid since he started.”
This is the reality of many immigrant families who have loved ones detained at these facilities. Since the hunger strike started, it has gathered massive support from the community both in New Jersey and New York. This is why we must continue to pressure to end ICE contracts and begin the liberation of all. The counties and private corporations are currently making money off of this pain. The commodification of Black and Brown bodies is, in itself, violence enforced by the state. It dehumanizes our loved ones and it is a mirror image of the brutalization that has been on full view outside the jail these past weeks.
About Immigration Detention in New Jersey- New Jersey has four immigration detention facilities. Three are pursuant to intergovernmental service agreements between Bergen, Essex, and Hudson Counties and ICE. Each of the counties is paid a “bed rate” of between $110 and $120/day. The counties use the contracts, which date back as far as 25 years, to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually. The contracts and their associated revenue are often celebrated by the elected Democrats who sign them. The fourth facility is the Elizabeth Detention Center, which is run by the private for-profit company CoreCivic, but the building is owned by a local company, The Elberon Development Group. The principals of Elberon, Anne Evans Estabrook and Dave Gibbons, contribute to the campaigns of local politicians and sit on the boards of local institutions including Kean University, NJPAC, and RWJBarnabas.