Portview Properties, which owns a property in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that is currently being used to detain immigrants, has filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court against CoreCivic, the operator of the prison, alleging that the company has failed to implement safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) on COVID-19, posing a threat to the health of the detainees.
In its complaint, the Portview argues that CoreCivic’s floor plan and design for the detention facility make it physically impossible to comply with social distancing measures. Portview asserts that this is a violation of their lease agreement with CoreCivic, and is asking the court to terminate its contract with CoreCivic.
Since February 2020, over 100 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded at the Elizabeth Detention Facility, with more than half occurring since March 2021. The Elizabeth Detention Center has recorded the most COVID-19 cases of any of the facilities in New Jersey housing immigrants since the beginning of the pandemic.
Twenty years after the tragic events of September 11, 2021, many immigrants who assisted in the recovery and clean-up near Ground Zero are still seeking to obtain legal immigration status as a recompense for that work and the health problems they have suffered since that time.
Many undocumented immigrants were hired to participate in massive cleaning and removal projects, clearing away materials that often contained harmful chemicals, including asbestos, from buildings in lower Manhattan. These projects lasted for several months, frequently without the proper personal protective equipment. As a result, many have developed and suffer from various health issues, including cancer and reduction in lung function. Many of these undocumented immigrants did not seek proper health care for fear of deportation. Some left the United States, while others, unfortunately, died.
Some immigrants have given up the years-old fight for residence in the U.S., but others still have not given up, with a protest scheduled in New York in October. U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the successor to Representative Crowley, is exploring the possibility of reintroducing a bill, first set forth in 2017, that would put September 11 first responders and clean-up crew workers on a path to legal immigration status. The Norris McLaughlin Immigration Law Blog, “Immigration Matters,” will continue to monitor the status of this legislation.
Today, the United States Senate is hearing arguments on whether Democrats will be able to incorporate a pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants into the proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill. The Senate Parliamentarian, a bipartisan official who advises the Senate on parliamentary procedure and interprets parliamentary rules, will make the ultimate decision.
Senate Democrats are actively discussing how to include a pathway to citizenship for specific immigrants in the United States, including “Dreamers” who entered the U.S. as minor children, people with Temporary Protective Status, and farmworkers and other immigrants who have been employed as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to have these immigration measures included in the bill, Democrats will need to prove that their proposal satisfies the Senate budget requirements, which includes demonstrating the impact on federal spending.
A decision is not expected immediately.