New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee                                    
  "building a community-based movement to end injustice and to defend our democratic rights"

Who We Are
Voices of the Disappeared
Free The Detainees
Image Gallery
News Updates
Press Releases

Activist's Corner

Get Involved
Contact Us
  Letter to President Obama

Open Letter to President Obama regarding Torture

We strongly condemn your decision not to prosecute those who tortured detainees in the CIA’s secret jails and elsewhere. This decision condones the crimes that the torturers committed. Your argument that the torturers should not be prosecuted because they acted on the legal advice of the Justice Department echoes the excuse so discredited at the Nuremburg trials: “they were only following orders”. The decision not to punish torture in the past undercuts the credibility of your pledge not to use torture in the future. In fact you are leaving the door wide open for such crimes to be committed in the future—so long as everyone believes they are operating lawfully.

NJCRDC joins many other organizations in demanding that you reverse this decision and prosecute all those who are guilty of torture, from those who implemented it up to those who authorized it—Bush, Cheney and the lawyers who assisted them. You have a Constitutional duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and torture is a crime under our laws and under international treaties by which the U.S. is bound.

Torture is the most extreme form of abuse that is made possible by the system of arbitrary detention that your administration continues to carry out. You have in your May 21 speech said that you would continue the unconstitutional policy of holding people convicted of no crime in indefinite detention. At the same time, tens of thousands of immigrants are detained right now without criminal charge or trial and millions more are subject to the Department of Homeland Security’s reign of terror with its threats of arbitrary detention and deportation. This system violates the Constitutional rights of all and benefits only employers, landlords, and all those who profit from a population too terrorized to defend their rights. NJCRDC demands that you immediately, by executive order, end all immigration raids and detentions, including the freeing of ALL those now detained without criminal charge or trial.

The members of New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee


Warning posted June 12th about Newark Airport

Recently a number of immigrants who have gone to Newark airport to pick up relatives have been detained by ICE.

Immigrants with any kind of immigration issue should avoid going to the airport!

  NJCRDC Report

NJCRDC Report on Immigrant Detentions

Voices of the Disappeared:
An Investigative Report on New Jersey Immigrant Detentions

The detainees can be heard. Their message—and ours—to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), DHS, and the OIG, is that closing the Passaic County Jail is not enough. The latest audit of January 2007 from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report [See the OIG report] only muzzles those who have already suffered throughout this system, and sweeps the dirty secrets of widespread abuse in immigrant detention under the rug. NJCRDC's data illustrates a clear pattern of punitive treatment at the hands of local officials. It includes the use of attack dogs, guard beatings and verbal and psychological abuse, squalid and overcrowded living conditions, systemic food and heat deprivation, and inadequate care for detainees' medical needs.
Picture of the Report Cover Click the image to read this important and substantial report.
Ajaj Click the image to view pictures relevant to the report.

  NJCRDC Protest

At the Middlesex County Freeholders Meeting of October 16th, 2008.

Click here to see pictures of the NJCRDC presence at the meeting.
Click here to see a video of the meeting. The public portion, including us, starts about 2/3 of the way in. The video is large.

Oct.16th Vigil

Detainee Arturo Alvarez died on March 2nd, 2008 owing to medical neglect.

Middlesex County is now holding over 150 immigrant detainees and making over $6 million a year on their suffering. On March 2nd a Middlesex County detainee died from what was seen as medical neglect by over 90 detainee witnesses. Their petitions to protest his death, as well as conditions in Middlesex County detention generally, resulted in no more than retaliatory transfer to other jails. One of these is Hudson County Correctional, one of 5 ICE-contracted detention facilities singled out nationwide for abuses 2 years ago. (ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

  Website of interest

See the website:

Homeland Guantanomos Homeland Guantanamos

It has a great online video game where you, the player, are a reporter at an immigrant detention center and you are trying to determine why a detainee died.
See its great graphics and important messages.

  Petitions from Hudson County

New Petition and letter from the Hudson County Detention Center.

The following is part of a letter by detainee Luis Queseda:

Can a tree take back his seed after it has fallen in the other side of a fence when it has become a grown tree, as the land says "it was your seed", or can the ground say to the tree "I am going to cut you down for your fruit is bitter" when the ground where is planted is bitter itself, or can a fully grown tree be cut off and planted back in the other side without his roots and survive, and what about the roots, can they survive too.

We are unappreciated, under-evaluated. and prejudiced as the country we live in shuns us without concern and the one I was born in I don't remember, but I know where I lived since a child, I know where all my friends and family live, who taught me to read and write, my science, math and history; I know where I met my wife and how we fell in love. I know this is my society and to it I am patriotic, but I may soon be a man without a country.

Not just aliens are victims of unreasonable treatment, Citizens families have no say or consideration in the Matter, but also injured war veterans are ignored and forgotten as this country applies its undeveloped concern to them, wishing they will disappear. Our difference is that they can make us disappear.

Full statement by detainee Luis Queseda.

Also read the Petition from the Hudson County Detention Center detainees.


Please sign the Petition regarding a Death in the Middlesex County Detention Center

The New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee (NJCRDC) expresses its full solidarity with the outrage expressed by more than ninety detainees being held at the Middlesex County Correction Center who have signed a petition in protest of the recent death (March 2, 2008) of fellow-detainee Arturo Alvarez owing to medical neglect. The signers are all immigrants who are detained pending review of their deportation status.

Read the NJCRDC Announcement.     Read the detainees' March 2nd petition.       Read the detainees' April 15th petition and related material.

Sign the petition.     Take action through NJ Media Corps.

  Rapid Response Network

The RRN hotline provides emergency voice help.

RRN flyer In response to widespread immigration raids, a coalition of immigrant rights activists has announced the launching of a Rapid Response Network Hotline that will give help to those confronted with the raids. The RRN Hotline, sponsored by the NJ May 1 Coalition and the New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee is a 24-hour toll free number covering New York and New Jersey that will provide immediate, contact with Spanish-speaking volunteers. In the event of a raid, the volunteers will calmly inform callers of their basic rights, especially the right not to admit the ICE agents to their homes without a warrant signed by a judge and the right to remain silent.

Go to the website to learn more.

  Letter to ICE

Letter of Sept 7th, 2007 from the Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security to the Assistant Secretary of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

It concerns the treatment of detainees. A key sentence reads in part "we are concerned that undocumented aliens are not only suffering from inadequate medical attention while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they are also dying in our Nation's detention facilities."
The letter goes on to ask a number of questions regarding medical facilities and deaths.

Read this letter.

  Office Inspector General report

Treatment of Immigration Detainees Housed at Immigration and Customs Enforcement Facilities

A December 2006 report by the Homeland Security department's inspector general audits five detention centers for immigrants, two in New Jersey, the Passaic County Jail and the Hudson County Correctional Center. Four of the five cites had health care violations and three had environmental health and safety concerns.

Eric Lerner of NJCRDC said: "This isn't a serious report. ... This is in no way a reflection of the information we gave to the OIG. It's basically a whitewash that specifically does not address the many reports of abuse of the detainees."

Read the full report Also read the three news articles in the column at the right dated January 17th and 19th, 2007.

  Supreme Court decision

The case of Lopez v. Gonzales.

In an 8-to-1 decision on December 5th 2006 the Supreme Court rejected the government's interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. An immigrant is not subject to automatic deportation for a drug crime misdemeanor under federal law, despite this being a felony under the state's law.

Read the Linda Greenhouse story in the New York Times.
Or the AP article in the International Herald Tribune.

  Press Release from NJCRDC

December 2006 Election-day Poll in NYC Shows Broad Support for Sweeping Immigration Reform

Read the Press Release.

  Press Release from Monmouth County Residents for Immigrants Rights

Federal lawsuit has been resolved

Read the Press Release.

  America's Investigative Reports on PBS

Daniel Zwerdling of NPR presented his findings about the abuse of immigrant detainees in September 2006 on PBS.

An interview of Daniel Zwerdling by Leonard Lopate on WNYC.

  Interview with Professor Alfred McCoy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison whom Jeannette Gabriel studied with

Read the transcript of the interview

In the interview McCoy discusses the suicide deaths at Guantanamo and the case of the Australian prisoner David Hicks. Click here to read the article.

  May Day Report of 2006

Jeannette and Eric post their analysis

The first national general strike in US history occurred on May 1st. It was also the largest strike of any kind in the nation's history. At least 1.2 million people participated in day-time rallies in just the largest cites, with many hundreds of thousands more in 100 or 200 events around the country. Although not all at the rallies were taking off from work, undoubtedly many took off work and did not go to the rallies, so between one and two million workers struck yesterday. This is 10-20% of the entire immigrant workforce.

AP estimate of the biggest rallies:
400,000 in Chicago
400,000 in LA
100,000 in San Jose
55,000 in San Francisco
15,000 in Houston
30,000 across Florida

In New York City, estimates of size were all over the place, but the 3-mile long March could not have been smaller than 150,000

In certain areas and industries, the strike was almost complete. Agricultural production across both Florida and California came to a halt. Contstuction workers in Florida struck in large numbers. In the Midwest, all three of the largest meatpackers were forced to close, knowing that if they did not, their workforces would have walked out anyway. In Los Angeles, the garment workers closed the huge garment center and the wholesale food workers struck as well. The independent truckers shut down the ports of Los Angles and Long Beach. Except for some of the meatpackers, none of these groups of workers were in unions.

By comparison, in all of last year, labor-union strikes involved 100,000 people.

Workers have found the US in 2006, as they have found in other places and at other times that there is another way to fight than traditional union strikes: the political mass strike. What demands for wages or working conditions alone could not do, an ambitious political demand--for the legalization of ALL immigrants--has accomplished.

At the same time, the immigrant rights movement, now clearly a movement of the immigrant section of the working class, has discovered that bold, uncompromising demands--for Equal Rights, no deportations--and bold tactics--a general strike-- can achieve unity , while timid "realistic" demands and tactics cannot.

In New York the crowd was overwhelmingly Latino, so the sort of unity achieved among various immigrant groups in Chicago has not yet come to New York. Nor were many native-born in evidence, so the unity of the peace movement and immigrant movement is also yet to be achieved. But it was a joyous and militant crowd. The sure-fire applause lines were all those calling for legalization for all immigrants and equal rights for all. Those were the demands that unified everyone and that had brought them there.

At the rally, Saleh Ajaj spoke for NJ Civil Rights Defense Committee on the demand, adopted by the May 1 coalition, to "free all detainees". He movingly spoke of being himself detained for 14 months. We then paraded in the midst of the huge crowd with our "FREE ALL DETAINEES" banner, which got into many photos.

Of course, the local English-speaking press declined to publish any of the demands.

Importantly, the coalition passed out tens of thousand of flyers calling people to a New York metro regional conference on June 17 and to the next meeting of the coalition, tomorrow night,. Hopefully through these flyers were will bring into a new democratic organizing process some of the key grass-roots activists who mobilized this strike in workplaces and communities. That will be the key to building an ever-growing movement for immigrant and worker rights.

  Passaic County Jail Protest

Protest Successful - Jail Lies

New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee and supporters conducted an orderly and well-attended protest in front of Passaic County Jail on Sunday, January 8, 2006. See Herald News report

However, according to conversations with detainees inside the jail, there was NO incident involving pepper spray or charges against detainees. We are awaiting clarification as to why the jail spokesman, Bill Maer, apparently lied to the Herald News reporter.

  Passaic County Jail ends immigrant detentions

Major news.

Due to controversy and protests, the Passaic County Jail has terminated its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will no longer detain immigrants at Passaic County Jail. This is a significant victory for civil rights and for the detainees. Passaic County Jail was the site of constant abuses of detainees human rights. Equally important, the ending of this contract means that fewer places will be available for ICE to hold immigrant detainees, so fewer detainees will be held.

Read the news stories at the right starting with December 29th, 2005.

Read the NJCRDC statement and press release.

  Suicide at Passaic County Jail

NJCRDC Statement on Suicide at Passaic County Jail - February 17, 2005

NJCRDC was deeply outraged to hear of the suicide of Mr. Heq Sung Soo at Passaic County Jail on Wednesday, February 16, 2005. But we were not surprised. The negligent treatment by ICE, all the hospitals involved and the Passaic County Jail led to the death of an innocent man who could not speak English and was systematically denied appropriate medical care. The only possible result of holding innocent people as criminals without access to constitutional protection is torture and death.

The death of Heq Sung Soo is nothing less than a war crime. Those who lead ICE and Passaic County Jail must be held legally accountable for this death and all the illegal detentions of immigrants which have effectively shredded the Bill of Rights. We cannot remain silent without being stripped of our humanity.

NJCRDC continues to document horrible conditions at Passaic County Jail. Like Heq Sung Soo, many other detainees there are systematically denied appropriate medical care. They sleep in containers on the floor due to overcrowding. They are physically and mentally abused by jail guards and officials. Although the use of dogs to terrorize and torture has stopped, no one responsible has been prosecuted, and reports of beatings and abuse continue. Only the freeing of all the detainees and the end of the practice of detention without charge will stop the ongoing abuse, torture and death.

We call for an immediate investigation of all parties involved in Mr. Heq Sung Soo�s death. We call for an immediate termination of ICE�s contract with Passaic County Jail. We call for the immediate release of all the detainees. We must stop the torture now before another innocent person dies.

Additional Information

Organizing gets results... but it takes a lot of work. We have done a lot of work but there is still a lot of work to do. We need your help! Come to a meeting, join a committee, get involved.

In The News
Oct. 7, 2009
Report Critical of Scope of Immigration Detention

Nina Bernstein
New York Times

Oct. 4, 2009
Immigration detainees at Middlesex County jail may move within 10 days

Gene Racz
my Central Jersey

Oct. 1, 2009
Middlesex County freeholders vote to end contract with ICE for keeping detainees at jail

Gene Racz
my Central Jersey

Sep. 2, 2009
AG warns NJ police against immigration patrols

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jul. 24, 2009
RIGHTS-US: Byzantine World of Immigration Detention

William Fisher
IPS News Service

Jul. 13, 2009
Morristown immigrants fearful of new federal enforcement policy

Tanya Drobness
The Star Ledger

May. 5, 2009
Justices Limit Use of Identity Theft Law in Immigration Cases

New York Times

Apr. 16, 2009
Avenel man facing deportation sent home credits faith to surprising turn of events


Apr. 15, 2009
Study Says Police Misuse Immigration-Inquiry Rule

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Apr. 15, 2009
Family Secrets

Timothy Egan
The New York Times

Apr. 2, 2009
Immigrant Detainee Dies, and a Life Is Buried, Too

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Mar. 31, 2009
Highland Park church rallies as member is moved to West Coast facility for deportation


Mar. 18, 2009
Ill Migrants Left to Languish Behind Bars

Ben Case
Inter Press Service

Mar. 16, 2009
Immigrants face detention, few rights

International Herald Tribune

Mar. 12, 2009
In City of Lawyers, Many Immigrants Fighting Deportation Go It Alone

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Mar. 12, 2009
Priest’s Video Contradicts Police Report on Arrest

The New York Times

Feb. 13, 2009
Detainee and his Dearest Meri find happiness

Helen O'Neill

Feb. 13, 2009
100,000 Parents of Citizens Were Deported Over 10 Years

The New York Times

Feb. 10, 2009

Sarah Ignatius
The New York Times

Feb. 4, 2009
Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Feb. 4, 2009
Monica Yant Kinney: Two stories, both with good endings

Monica Yant Kinney
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Feb. 1, 2009
Monica Yant Kinney: An American dream cut short

Monica Yant Kinney
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jan. 15, 2009
U.S. Issues Scathing Report on Immigrant Who Died in Detention

Nina Bernstein
New York Times

Jan. 8, 2009
Ruling Says Deportation Cases May Not Be Appealed Over Lawyer Errors

John Schwartz
The New York Times

Dec. 26, 2008
City of Immigrants Fills Jail Cells With Its Own

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Dec. 10, 2008
ACLU to Unveil New Immigration Report at Human Rights Forum

Press Release

Oct. 18, 2008
Activists want Middlesex County to stop holding immigrant detainees in jail

Home News

Oct. 5, 2008
Death of Detained Immigrant Inspires Online Game With Goal of Educating Players

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Sep. 11, 2008
A Matter of Justine

Jane Guskin
The Huffington Post

Aug. 17, 2008
Mr. Ng’s Death

The New York Times

Jun. 11, 2008

Senator Robert Menendez
Senator's website

Jun. 5, 2008
Thin ICE

Jacqueline Stevens
The Nation

Jun. 3, 2008
The Great Immigration Panic

The New York Times

May. 22, 2008
DHS Will Face Questions on Care of Detained Immigrants

Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post

May. 14, 2008
Rally planned Thursday in New Brunswick to protest holding of immigrant detainees

Courier News

May. 13, 2008
Menendez introduces companion bill - medical care for immigrant detainees after news of 2 NJ deaths


May. 13, 2008
A Surgeon’s Path From Migrant Fields to Operating Room

Claudia Dreifus
New York Times

May. 12, 2008
Careless Detention: A Series of Four Articles

Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein
The Washington Post

May. 6, 2008
Death by Detention

The New York Times

May. 5, 2008
For Immigrants Who Died in U.S. Custody, Few Details Provided

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

May. 1, 2008
Immigrants Challenge U.S. System of Detention

Nina Bernstein
The New York Times

Apr. 28, 2008
Christie: Illegal immigrants aren't criminals


Apr. 19, 2008
Activists: Detainees lack health care in jail

Gene Racz
Home News Tribune

Mar. 15, 2008
Petition cites detainee's death

Ken Serrano
Home News Tribune

Mar. 8, 2008
Immigration Policy in U.S. Is Criticized by U.N. Aide

New York Times

Feb. 26, 2008
Study: Incarceration rate lower for immigrants

Jill Tucker
San Francisco Chronicle

Oct. 27, 2007
Jail conditions spur federal judge to cut inmate's sentence

Sep. 12, 2007
New Jersey voices added to U.S. report

Herald News

Jun. 26, 2007
New Scrutiny as Immigrants Die in Custody

New York Times

Jun. 17, 2007
US judge says jail officials can force-feed starving immigration detainee