Critics say abuse is rampant among those being held in the Garden State for violations of civil immigration law.
Advocates for immigration reform gathered at the New Jersey Statehouse Wednesday to call for changes in the detention and deportation system.
Critics of the current system say about 1,500 people are being held in detention in New Jersey for violations of civil immigration law.
Silky Shah of the Detention Watch Network says many of those immigrants are suffering human rights violations while in custody.
“Immigrants continue to be jailed for months or even years under substandard conditions, mistreatment by guards, grossly deficient medical care, used of solitary confinement, and limited access to family and counsel,” says Shah.
Shah says some of those detainees are longtime legal residents with minor nonviolent offenses. She says alternatives to incarceration would be less expensive and not as devastating to the families of those being held.
Greg Sullivan of the advocacy group First Friends is also pushing for alternatives to incarceration.
“They usually take the bread winner,” says Sullivan. “These families are going to have to obviously go on the dole and in many cases may not be eligible for social benefits.”