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STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY-IN-CHARGE OF BDS’ DETAINED DEPORTATION DEFENSE TEAM ON BERGEN COUNTY JAIL CONDITIONS AS DETAINED IMMIGRANTS’ HUNGER STRIKE

December 8, 2020

Contact: Daniel Ball, dball@bds.org

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY-IN-CHARGE OF BDS’ DETAINED DEPORTATION DEFENSE TEAM ON BERGEN COUNTY JAIL CONDITIONS AS DETAINED IMMIGRANTS’ HUNGER STRIKE

(BROOKLYN, NY) – Andrea Sáenz, Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) for Brooklyn Defender Services, released the following statement about conditions at Bergen County Jail, in response to reports that a group of immigrants in the facility have reached the 25th day of their hunger strike, and renews call to free all detained immigrants:

“As the second wave of the pandemic hits New York City and New Jersey, a group of immigrants detained at Bergen County Jail have entered the 25th day of their hunger strike to protest conditions and demand release. The people we represent have long reported negligent and dangerous conditions in ICE detention, only worsened by the pandemic, including solitary confinement, lack of basic sanitation, and inadequate medical care. In recent days, we have heard from our clients detained at Bergen County Jail that there is no soap in bathrooms for handwashing; no disinfectants or hand sanitizers are available; bathrooms are not being cleaned and some are out of order; food is scarce and inadequate; temperatures are cold; phones are not disinfected; guards are antagonistic; single masks have to be worn for several days; and social distancing remains impossible in crowded rooms of 50 to 60 people with some not wearing masks.  

As COVID-19 ravages prisons and jails across the country and deaths in ICE detention reach record highs, these conditions are unacceptable and downright life-threatening. ICE enforcement and detention is racist, inhumane, and a danger to us all, especially in a global pandemic. ICE must free all immigrants from Bergen County jail and all detention centers across the country and allow people to remain safely with their families and communities.”

BACKGROUND: Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, and immigration legal representation, as well as civil legal services, social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney. Since the pandemic struck, BDS’ New York Immigrant Family Unity Project has taken successful legal action causing ICE to release 75% of all the detained immigrants we serve.