Latino and immigrant rights groups praised a new law signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday that bars the state's prisons and jails from entering into contracts to detain immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.
Immigrant and human rights groups had pushed for the legislation.
“For far too long, New Jersey has enabled and profited from ICE’s cruel immigration detention system that tears apart families and communities," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement. "With the signing of this bill, New Jersey is taking a first step towards ending its complicity in the mass detention of noncitizens."
The groups protested reports that jails in northern New Jersey had contracted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, culminating in legislation introduced in January by Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, both Democrats.
“This hard-fought victory reflects the resilience and tenacity of our communities — and reaffirms that our vision of a world without detention is within reach,” said Tania Mattos, policy and Northeast policy and monitoring manager of the group Freedom for Immigrants.
According to the legislation, the state's detention centers and correctional facilities "have a history of poor conditions, including inadequate medical and mental health care, use of isolated confinement, and incidents of violence and retaliation against people in detention."
A spokesman for ICE in Newark, which is part of Essex County, declined to comment on the new law.
Essex County said earlier this year it would end its contract with the agency. Hudson County officials voted late last year to extend a contract for up to a decade after earlier saying they’d end the agreement. Bergen County also already houses detainees.
It’s unclear how many detainees, if any, could be affected by the law.
There are currently 26 people being detained at Bergen County Jail, according to ICE, with 106 people at the privately run Elizabeth Detention Center. It’s unclear how many are in Hudson County.