🔴 Judge rules immigrant detention facility in NJ will remain open

🔴 A judge ruled a New Jersey law ordering its closure was unconstitutional

🔴 NJ Gov. Phil Murphy's administration plans an appeal

Gov. Phil Murphy's administration is vowing to appeal a federal judge's ruling that allows the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC) to remain open.

Operated by the private prison company CoreCivc, EDC is the last detention center in New Jersey used to house individuals detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Two years ago, Murphy signed a law (AB 5207) that prohibited local and private jails from housing federal immigration detainees, many of whom are asylum seekers waiting for court appearances.

CoreCivic sued the state claiming the law was unconstitutional.


Biden versus Murphy on immigration policy

The suit had the support of President Joe Biden's administration.

U.S. Department of Justice officials argued closing the EDC would cause a "catastrophic" impact to national security. They warned closing the facility could lead to the release of "dangerous noncitizens" and argued the facility's proximity to JFK and Newark airports made it, in fact, "mission critical" to United States immigration policy.

This is one the few issues where Murphy and Biden have had conflict. They are fellow democrats and long-time friends.


The judge agreed to keep the facility open

Ultimately, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kirsch ruled the law Murphy signed ordering EDC closed was unconstitutional.

Kirsh said in his ruling that the power to enact and enforce immigration law was solely with the federal government and the New Jersey law was "a dagger aimed at the heart" of these federal powers.

Elizabeth Detention Facility

Congress has the responsibility to enforce civil immigration laws which includes, when necessary, detention, Kirsh ruled. The judge then struck down the New Jersey law as "unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause."

Questions remain about prison conditions

Aside from the opposition to detaining undocumented immigrants, there have been frequent questions about the conditions inside the facilities.

Immigrant rights groups have complained for years about inhumane conditions.

Nine members of New Jersey's congressional delegation wrote to President Biden asking him to drop his support for keeping the facility open.

Bonnie Watson-Coleman

Their letter complained about "a facility with a history of poor sanitation, crumbling infrastructure, and complaints of physical and verbal abuse," and argued "For-profit prison companies have repeatedly shown that they cannot or will not respect the basic human rights of undocumented immigrants."

The Biden administration did not respond publicly to the letter.

The letter was signed by Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez and Representatives Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Rob Menendez, Jr. (NJ-08), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Andy Kim (NJ-03), and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11).

What's next?

An appeal is likely.

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he is "disappointed with today’s ruling" and vowed an appeal.

The group NJ Immigrant Justice was used more forceful language. They called the judge's ruling "infuriating." NJAIJ has been one of the leading critics of conditions inside the Elizabeth facility and vowed "the fight is not over!"

"Whether in the streets or in the courtroom," they wrote on X, "we will not give up until immigrant detention is out of New Jersey."

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