HACKENSACK, NJ — Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at Bergen County Jail are continuing a hunger strike as calls for their release amid the coronavirus pandemic continue.
On Friday, activist groups from northern New Jersey will protest outside the jail in solidarity with those on hunger strike. As of Nov. 23, nine detainees are participating in the strike, an ICE-ERO spokesperson told Patch.
The protest was organized by a coalition of activist groups from the northern part of the state, a member of Ridgewood for Black Liberation said. Activist groups from Teaneck and Wayne have also been promoting the protest through social media.
This is the second protest in as many weeks, after last week, rabbis from T'ruah gathered outside the jail on Friday.
"Detainees are on hunger strike inside. Their suffering is on all o(f) our hands," said Rabbi Jonah Geffen, on Twitter.
According to a statement from ICE-ERO, the hunger strike violates no rules or regulations within the jail system.
"ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to its detainees, and they are under close medical observation by ICE or contract medical providers. For their health and safety, ICE carefully monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike," the organization said, in a statement.
Detained immigrants and advocacy groups hope for their release, where they can await a decision in their deportation cases without fear of contracting the coronavirus while detained.
The coronavirus has been a cause for concern within New Jersey jails throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the state released more than 2,000 inmates to try and control the spread of the virus, but 88 of those newly freed people were almost immediately placed in ICE custody, according to a Patch report.
"Eighty-eight inmates with ICE detainers who were released from New Jersey state prisons were taken into ICE custody on [Nov. 4]. All are violent offenders or have convictions for serious crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault, drug trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Some were placed in removal proceedings and housed in ICE facilities outside of NJ, while others were detained locally pending execution of their final orders of removal," an ICE-ERO Newark spokesperson told Patch, in a statement at the time.
This isn't the first time Bergen County Jail has been in the crosshairs of immigrant advocacy groups.
Reports of air conditioning failure at the jail during a heatwave this summer were met with conflicting reports from jail officials — who said temperatures remained around 70 degrees — and immigrant advocates, who said that was a lie.