ICE's Model - a Jail that sits in "Chemical Corridor"
Essex is a story with national implications because the problems at Essex completely undercut ICE's national messaging. ICE is saying that it is in the process of making immigration detention humane. ICE is holding up Essex as a model for the country, but their model consists of a jail that blocks access to clergy, and a hastily partitioned correctional facility located next to a water treatment plant and toxic waste.
Earlier this week at a press conference in front of the Hall of Records in Newark, Cynthia Mellon, the Environmental Justice & Community Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corp., talked about the high levels of pollution, the poor air quality and the concerns about the county's inability to evacuate the occupants of the jail and Delaney Hall in the event of a chemical spill.
The environmental issues at the jail and the ICE contract itself tie into the oppression of immigrants in the surrounding neighborhood. On October 9th we will be marching past a school in the majority Portuguese and Brazilian community in the Ironbound section of Newark. This school needed to be closed twice in the last two years for environmental concerns, first for Benzene and the second time for mold. The children are being bussed to schools out of the city.
Essex County is expanding the prison but it is not building a new school anywhere in the Ironbound. The freeholders and county executive keep talking about how much money the county will make off of this deal with ICE and they say they plan to use it to lower property taxes (most likely taxes in the western suburbs.) So not only will the immigrant community continue to suffer the injustice of having its residents incarcerated in the local prison they will continue living in a polluted neighborhood without a safe school for their children. It is unlikely that they will see a dime of this revenue that the new ICE contract is supposed to bring to Essex.
Not only is ICE is incapable of treating people humanely, there is just no such thing as humane immigration detention.