On a recent Wednesday morning, Rabbi Greenstein, Audrey Levitin and I joined the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance (MSA) in a meeting with Representative Mikie Sherrill, who represents the 11th Congressional District including part of Montclair. The overall message was that people in her state are eager to welcome immigrants as we have been doing for decades. MSA members discussed several issues with Representative Sherrill about refugee resettlement, asylum seekers, and conditions in the detention centers.
From Andy Silver:
We are organizing a Back-to-School Supplies Drive for the children in the refugee families whom we have been assisting. We need your help!
There are currently 18 school-age children, ranging in age from 4 to 16, in six of “our” families. The families have very little discretionary income to spend on school supplies; our goal is to help enable the children to have what they need to start the school year successfully.
A very productive meeting was held at Shomrei on Wednesday night (July 24). We primarily discussed the Essex County contract with ICE and how we can join forces with other houses of worship in the area to advocate for the best possible conditions for people being held in detention.
We also discussed establishing a social action committee at Shomrei. Stay tuned about next steps.
Two meetings were held the following evening (Thursday July 25) in which Shomrei was very well represented. The first Audrey attended with the clergy at BK and Reverend Joel Hubbard with Freeholder Luciano, who seemed to be open to the abpve proposals.
This was followed by a very well attended Freeholder’s meeting open to the public in Livingston. The vast majority of public comments focused on the ICE contract, requests for meetings with Freeholders, objections to the ICE contract and advocacy for the proposals outlined below.
The goal is to have the Freeholders who have not met with religious and community members agree to do so in advance of a vote in September for the attached proposals.
As a next next, below is contact information and a script to reach out to those Freeholders who have not yet agreed to meet. It would be great if you send an email to these freeholders to keep the momentum going.
Thanks so very much and we will keep you updated as things progress. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Audrey and Sarita
ACTION ITEM: Please contact these Freeholders
To: Freeholder [INSERT NAME]
I’m an Essex County resident and I’m calling/writing to ask you to meet with the multi-faith Essex County clergy who have requested a meeting with you to discuss a civilian oversight board, a detainee advocate, universal legal representation for ICE detainees, and a responsible end to the business of incarcerating immigrants.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]
PROPOSALS REGARDING IMMIGRANT DETENTION
Regarding the ICE contract, the following solutions are being proposed with the leadership of the ACLU of New Jersey and other faith based groups and the information below comes from BK’s immigration committee.
1) A Civilian Oversight Board:
Background: ECCF (Essex County Correctional Facility) failed a DHS inspection in June 2018; those findings, which included rotten food, an unattended exposed firearm, and mold growing on bathroom ceilings, were made public in February 2019. In a March 13, 2019 letter to the Freeholders, the NJCLU wrote that “meaningful civilian oversight and accountability are critical” to meeting the county’s obligation to protect “the safety, physical and mental health, and due process of those it confines.” While the county has taken action to remedy the problems cited in the earlier report, Essex County Correctional Facility was also found in violation of 2011 PBNDS (Performance-based National Detention Standards) in a June 3, 2019 OIG (Office of Inspector General, DHS) report. Many of the violations surrounded the use of solitary confinement.
2) A Detainee Advocate:
Background: Hudson County has taken a number of steps to remedy DHS violations, including creating a Detainee Advocate who reviews all grievances filed by ICE detainees. First Friends argues that this would be a meaningful improvement at ECCF. At Hudson County, this role is filled by Rosa Santana of First Friends. This position is especially crucial because according to Essex County staff, ECCF hasn’t met the standards for grievance boards and advocates outlined in the 2011 PBNDS.
3) Universal Legal Representation for Detainees:
Background: The Freeholders approved an additional $750,000 in funding for legal representation for ICE detainees in July 2019 and is exploring possible contractors for these services (SAFE and VERA). This is a great first step, but Make the Road NJ estimates that the true cost of legal representation for all detainees is $5 million. By the county’s own estimate, $750,000 will cover the cost of representing only 200 of the 850+ ICE detainees. The NJCLU wrote in a March letter to the Freeholders that “data from New York’s publicly funded universal representation program shows that success rates for program clients increased by 1100 percent over underrepresented cases.”
From CaptainLynne Kurzweil:
We welcomed a full house of 24 guests plus 3 takeaways to our final MESH Cafe of the spring season. We will resume serving in September while our MESH guests can attend cafe at other houses of worship over the summer. Tonight Master Chef Aileen Grossberg prepared a sumptuous feast with the help of Yours Truly, Arden Epstein and young helpers Zaniah and Sarah. Also assisting with plating, serving and clean up were Alex Kent and Rachel Kanter.
From Captain Shirley Grill:
It was a stormy, wet night on Tuesday so we invited our MESH guests into Shomrei early to provide sanctuary from the storm! We had a full house with 24 guests and 5 takeaway dinners. The evening was brightened by Chef Arden Epstein’s fare, in colors of red and green…rather spring like! Appetizer was fresh cherries and nuts–can be seen in forefront of the picture; Main Course was Asian Chicken Salad with cashews and mandarin slices; string beans in a mustard dressing and a hot roll; Desert was Strawberries and homemade chocolate bark–yummm! And all the guests received a goodie bag with a power bar and clementine for a late night snack or breakfast!
From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:
On a balmy spring evening we welcomed 24 grateful guests to the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. We also provided 2 takeout meals. The top notch team of Steindel, Eisenberg and Hammerman was on board with Sarah and Sarita preparing a delicious and nutritious meal assisted by Charles and Lou who ably performed numerous tasks including Lou’s stellar pot, pan, dish and utensil washing. We had a new helper tonight. Sarah, the young daughter of our custodian Kevin, pitched in with plating food and serving. She was a big help! Continue reading
From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:
The Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei welcomed a full house of 24 grateful guests this past Tuesday night. Four additional hungry guests were given takeaway meals. As we were about to say the motzi, one young woman raised her hand, stood up and said she would like to lead the blessing. She proceeded to recite “Baruch Ata Adon…” and then in English, both with perfect precision, as she has heard each week at our cafe. My heart warmed at her sincerity.
From Captain Sarah Kravits:
It was a great day for vegetarians (and other fans of good food) on Tuesday night at the Carol Starr MESH cafe at Shomrei. Chef Arden Epstein made a delicious vegetarian meal starting with an appetizer of watermelon, mozzarella, tomato, and basil with pita chips; then moving on to a green salad with ranch dressing; featuring a main course of polenta with cheese served with black beans and corn and tortilla chips; and ending with refreshing ice cream sandwiches.
From Captain Linda Ariel:
It was a lively evening at the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. It was a warm sunny evening, and the days were surely getting longer. We hosted 24 guests and were able to send four additional lucky people home with dinner. Sarita Eisenberg was top chef with the many able assistants, Chaya Kotlowitz, Charles Steindel, and Sarah Steindel ably preparing a delicious and colorful feast. Jonah and Madeline were the teen volunteers who did anything and everything that was needed to help. Lou Hammerman pitched in as both a server and a pot washer par excellence.
From Captain Shirley Grill:
Tuesday night was a cold and rainy night–not your typical spring evening! Because of the weather, we let our guests in early rather than have them wait outside in the rain. We were fortunate that the meal was a spinoff from our wonderful Syrian meal the prior Friday, so much of the work was reheating and cutting and chopping for a fresh green salad and fruit salad.