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ICE detention contracts banned from New Jersey prisons

New Jersey bans local and private jails from entering into new ICE detention contracts as Gov. Murphy signs bill into law. 

Under the new law, local and private jails in New Jersey are now banned from “entering into, renewing, or extending immigration detention agreements”  with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bill was quietly signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy last Friday, making N.J. the fifth state to limit or ban contracts with ICE. 

“This win has been a long time coming, not just for immigrants in New Jersey but for every family separated by detention. Our state now joins the handful of others who are spearheading the fight to end ICE detention nationwide,” said Amy Torres, executive director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice in a statement.

Advocates push for termination of all ICE detention contracts 

While the new law is a great step forward in ending the inhuman detainment of immigrants, it does not affect current ICE contracts, only future ones. In Bergen and Hudson county, long-term contracts still stand. Additionally, a private jail in Elizabeth recently extended its contract until 2023 while the bill waited to be signed. 

“The people inside are the ones being impacted by the delay,” said Chia-Chia Wang of the American Friends Service Committee. “I can only say it’s a hard lesson learned, but I don’t know if that can fully describe the real hardships people face inside.”

For years, counties such as Bergen, Essex, and Hudson defended the controversial practice of immigrant detention, which allowed the counties to rake in millions by charging ICE as much as $120 daily per detainee. However, recently the Democrats running these counties have shifted in their stance toward the practice, with Essex County announcing in April that it would cut its contracts with ICE and the other counties hinting they would be open to terminating their contracts as well

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (Image source)

Advocates are now pushing for more action, hoping to build momentum following the victory of this bill. Many are concerned about the hardships immigrants will face in the remaining facilities still under contract with ICE, especially as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread. Wang has called for all N.J. ICE contracts to be terminated, and other advocates and officials continue to speak out and push back against ICE. 

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State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, a main sponsor of the law, chimed in stating “county jails and other entities should be used to house people accused of real crimes, not to arbitrarily hold people who are trying to live their lives and contribute like anyone else.”

“Many of these individuals are immigrants who have lived in New Jersey for years, enriching our communities, and strengthening local economies,” Weinberg added. “This is a common sense bill and a humane one.”

Sonia Chang-Díaz

“I’m tired of waiting”: Latina Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz runs for Mass. Governor 

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, the only woman of color currently serving in the Massachusetts Senate and the first Latina elected to the state’s Senate, announced via Twitter that she will be running for governor in 2022. 

Sonia Chang-Díaz

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz announces bid for Mass. Governor. (Image via Twitter)

Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz wastes no time in doing good

Sonia Chang-Díaz, a former public school teacher, was first sworn into office in 2009 and represents the 2nd Suffolk District. From a young age, she was instilled with the values of justice and equity and taught the importance of taking action. 

In her campaign announcement video, published on Twitter, Sonia shares her family background, saying her mother was a social worker and her father was an immigrant from Costa Rica who came to the U.S. with only $50 in his pocket and went on to become NASA’s first Latino astronaut, Franklin Chang-Díaz. 

“If my mom can spend a lifetime helping kids escape poverty, surely Massachusetts can pass a Millionaires Tax to help more children get a better start in life,” she says in the video. “If America can send a poor kid from Costa Rica to space, surely Massachusetts can green our infrastructure and close the racial wealth divide.

Sonia Chang-Díaz’s father, Franklin Chang-Díaz, NASA’s first Latino astronaut in space. (Image via Twitter

Since she was a child, Sonia’s family taught her there is no time to waste in doing good. And she has proven that since her election into office in 2008; she has wasted no time in leading a movement to make bold, transformational change for working families in Massachusetts. 

In her career thus far, Sonia has made a name for herself surrounding the issues of education funding and criminal justice reform. One landmark win in education funding reform was her work in securing $1.5 billion in new aid to K-12 districts across the state. She wrote and championed for this funding, ultimately securing the groundbreaking win. In the area of criminal justice, she has led the charge for criminal justice reform and repealing racist sentencing rules and serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion. Additionally she has helped negotiate an overhaul of policing oversight and accountability laws last year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

“I’m running for Governor because I’m tired of waiting” 

As someone who has never wasted time in doing what needs to be done and fighting for the people’s rights, Sonia is taking the next step to ensure that Massachusetts working families are being cared for and getting what they need to thrive. 

In her Tweet announcing her bid for Massachusetts Governor, she declares: 

“I’ve spent my life listening to powerful people tell me to slow down. To think smaller. To wait,” Sonia says in her campaign video. “Voters didn’t send me to the State Senate to wait….Every day it gets harder for working families to live here. Health care and housing costs get higher, Black and brown kids face yawning opportunity gaps. If we don’t act now, we’ll be having the same conversation about the same problems in another 10 years.”

In her video, she continues by vowing to push back against “Beacon Hill insiders” who have “dragged their feet every step of the way, saying, ‘Think smaller.’” 

But Sonia has never been one to think small or hold back. “Instead, we fought unapologetically for the things working families actually need,” she says. “The trouble is, that kind of urgency in our state government is still the exception rather than the rule. Too many leaders are more interested in keeping power than doing something with it. I’m running to change that.”

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In addition to education and criminal justice reform, Sonia has been a leading champion for fair taxation, affordable housing, reliable and green public transportation, protections for immigrants, increased assistance for small and local entrepreneurs, capped fare increases for public transportation, advanced environmental justice reforms, and expanded voting rights. 

With her bid for Governor, Sonia Chang-Díaz joins Harvard University professor Danielle Allen–the first Black woman to run for governor in a major political party in the state’s history, and former state Sen. Ben Downing in the race for the Democratic nomination.