NJ Attorney General Appeals Federal Court Decision That Keeps ICE Detention Center in Elizabeth Open

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, January 8, 2024

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY -  The pursuit for immigrant rights in New Jersey is making early headway in 2024 and one of the state’s most significant opponents is President Biden. Last week, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office filed an appeal against a court decision that allows the federal government to continue detaining immigrants at the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC), the only Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center left in New Jersey. The federal court decision had contradicted a widely supported state law (AB 5207) that prohibits new ICE contracts and would have shut down the EDC in 2023. 

The Biden administration has supported the EDC’s private operator, CoreCivic, in the lawsuit against New Jersey to keep the EDC open, despite campaign promises against private immigration detention centers. Immigration detention, whether publicly or privately operated, is a deadly government practice that resulted in the deaths of two people in one week last month.

According to recent data, ICE deprives the liberty of 218 people at the EDC who wait to be reunited with their families and loved ones. With this appeal from the state, the Attorney General’s office is uplifting direct demands from local New Jersey communities, congressional delegations, and over 70 organizations from 20 states

The appeal reads, “AB 5207 is consistent with intergovernmental immunity principles, properly understood. The statute does not “directly” regulate the United States; it regulates private companies with whom the United States would otherwise choose to work, a key constitutional distinction. The statute does not “discriminate” against the Federal Government or its contractors either; New Jersey law does not allow private, for- profit detention companies to operate for-profit facilities in any similarly situated criminal corrections context. Finally, even if this Court adopts a freestanding thread of intergovernmental immunity doctrine based upon burdens alone, the district court overstated the practical burdens on federal immigration operations here.”

Local advocates foresee a busy year ahead to ensure that the Elizabeth Detention Center will close permanently. Several organizations are expected to file amicus briefs this week in support of the state’s appeal, including ACLU-NJ and Pax Christi USA.


Action 21, American Friends Service Committee NJ Immigrants Rights Program, Casa Freehold , Cosecha New Jersey, Detention Watch Network, First Friends of New Jersey and New York, Haiti Solidarity Network NE, Northern NJ Sanctuary Coalition, Unidad Latina en Acción NJ, Pax Christi New Jersey, The Mami Chelo Foundation, Inc , The Party for Socialism and Liberation - New Jersey, Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center