Call to Action: Helping Immigrants in Essex County

Protesters have targeted the Essex County Correctional Facility, which holds about 800 people who have been arrested on immigration charges. Photo credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press

Protesters at the Essex County Correctional Facility. Photo credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press

Dear Friends:
I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. I am writing to let you know about two social actions you can take to help immigrants in Essex County.

1) Join Faith in Essex on 10/23 at 7pm at the Newark Hall of Records for the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting to insist on ACLU-endorsed civilian oversight for Essex County Correctional Facility. This is a very important meeting where I believe the ordinance for the civilian oversight board that the ACLU is recommending will be introduced.

Please let me know (email hidden; JavaScript is required) if you plan to go to the Freeholders meeting and if so, let’s work in car pooling.

2) Send the email below to County Executive Joseph D. Vincenzo and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Continue reading

MESH Report Oct 15, 2019

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From Captain Alex Kent:

It was a wild and crazy MESH night this past Tuesday when, unbeknownst to the volunteer crew, the MESH guests were slated to dine in the Sukkah.

Everyone rose to the occasion, even though at times it was a bit of a Chinese fire drill with plates of food being ferried up and down the stairs and in the elevator. The MESH staff assured us the guests wanted to eat in the Sukkah, despite the 60 degree weather.

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MESH Report Sept 24, 2019

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From Captain Fern Heinig:

The Carole Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei was open for business Tuesday night and served thirty meals. We had 24 guests in house and prepared 6 take away meals. Amongst our guests, we had one vegetarian (though he did eat fish) and two of our take aways were non fish vegetarian.

As you can see from the picture of the cooking/serving crew, we had a very large and dedicated crew. We would like to welcome new Shomrei member Jean Thaler, better known as JT. Thank you JT for volunteering and hope your first experience will encourage you to volunteer again.

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MESH Report Sept 17, 2019

MESH cafe logoFrom Captain Lynne Kurzweil:

This past Tuesday on a balmy late summer eve, we welcomed 24 grateful guests to the Carol Starr MESH Cafe at Shomrei. We provided one takeaway meal and accommodated one vegetarian. Chef Stuart Green whipped up a hearty and delicious feast starting with homemade guacamole, baby carrots and tortilla chips. A green salad with Italian dressing preceded the main course of turkey chili served over rice with a side of yummy sautéed baby peppers. Guests mopped up the gravy with toasty Italian bread. Continue reading

Immigrant Demonstration in Newark

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On Thursday August 29, several individuals from Essex County joined clergy from several towns to support Faith in Essex, a multifaith group,  for a peaceful demonstration in front of the Hall of Records in Newark – where the Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and the Essex County Freeholders maintain offices.  We delivered letters requesting that there be a Civilian Oversight Board and a Detainee Advocate for the Essex County Correctional Facility.  Recently, there have been several incidents of abuse of detainees and most especially, immigrants that violate human rights.

Rabbi Greenstein from Shomrei Emunah, along with several clergy from various faiths around Essex County participated.  Letters need to continue to be written to support this effort.

What you can do: Please contact Essex County Executive and Freeholders, Below is a suggested message as well as the emails for our Essex County Executive and Freeholders. Continue reading

Immigrant Action Update: A Call to Action

MSA leaders with Mikie Sherrill

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.

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Two Ways to Help Local Refugees

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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.

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Immigrant Action Meeting Follow-up

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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.
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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.

IMG_6988This 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.

Best,
Audrey and Sarita
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ACTION ITEM: Please contact these Freeholders

Rufus Johnson: email hidden; JavaScript is required
973-621-4483

Romaine Graham: email hidden; JavaScript is required
(973) 621-5680

Robert Mercado: email hidden; JavaScript is required
973-621-4477

SUGGESTED WORDING

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.

Thank you,
[INSERT YOUR NAME]

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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.”

MESH Report 6/25/19

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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.
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