Legal Aid Society


NYIFUP Decries Potential Mass Transfer of Detained Immigrants

In response to reports from local immigration attorneys, advocates, and their clients that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to abruptly mass transfer roughly 35 people from its custody at New Jersey’s Essex County Correctional Facility to remote detention centers throughout the country, The Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, and The Bronx Defenders – New York City’s defender organizations providing free legal representation to detained immigrants through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) – called on ICE to end the practice of transfers and to immediately release all recently transferred individuals as well as all those currently detained locally, reports NJ Spotlight News.

The transfer concerns were first raised with ICE in correspondence issued June 4, 2021. ICE has yet to reply. As the letter detailed, in many cases, detained individuals seemed to have simply disappeared – often to facilities in Louisiana, Alabama, and Pennsylvania – with ICE deportation officers refusing to respond to reasonable inquiries from counsel about their clients’ whereabouts.

Additionally, ICE/jail correctional officers have spread inconsistent and misleading information among detained people about mass transfers, especially at the Hudson County Correctional Facility. These transfers, which happened without notice to the attorneys of record or even to detained individuals themselves, have serious implications for an immigrant’s ability to access counsel, evidence, and witnesses for their cases, and to contact and be supported by their family members and other loved ones.

As of June 25, 2021, at least 22 NYIFUP clients had been abruptly transferred. The individuals currently detained at Essex and facing the prospect of imminent transfer are not represented by NYIFUP but by other locally-based direct legal service providers.

“ICE has repeatedly chosen to continue the callous and inhumane practice of detaining and transferring people who are not enforcement priorities at unnecessary government expense, and at the risk to public health and safety during a pandemic,’’ said Sharone Schwartz Kaufman, Deputy Attorney-In-Charge with the Immigration Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society.