Federal payments for detaining immigrants are up sharply in some of New Jersey’s most Democrat-leaning counties.
Invoices show Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties are collecting about $6 million per month combined from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in exchange for holding immigrants in their jails, WNYC radio reported.
That amount is up more than 45 percent since the beginning of 2015 and continues a three-year trend that began under President Barack Obama.
Many detainees are awaiting trial or deportation hearings. But recently they’ve included people seeking asylum or those who were separated from their children under President Donald Trump’s strict enforcement policies.
The revenue increase is especially evident in Essex County, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement paid nearly $3 million for the month of May, nearly double what the county was getting in any month during Obama’s presidency.
Up to about 2,000 immigrants are held in the three county jails at any one time as they await deportation proceedings, and some are detained for years, according to the report.
Hudson and Essex counties house among the highest number of immigrant detainees of more than 100 county jails around the country that have ICE contracts, the report said.
Hillary Clinton won Hudson and Essex counties by large margins over Trump, and Bergen County went for Clinton by about 14 percentage points.
Local officials see the revenue as helping balance county budgets, and some immigrant advocates say detainees have better conditions and better access to legal resources in the county jails in New Jersey rather than in a more remote location. ICE doesn’t have a detention center in New York City.
“These folks were going to be sent somewhere, and chances are if nobody stepped up they could have been placed in one of the tent cities being set up,” Albany County (N.Y.) County Sheriff Craig Apple, who recently began accepting immigrant detainees for $119 per day, told the radio station. “They will be in an air-conditioned wing and getting help with access to free legal services.”