Group wants immigrants released over broken AC; jail says AC is fine
HACKENSACK — A legal advocacy group has said air conditioning has been reported broken during the latest summer heatwave in sections of Bergen County Jail where federal authorities are detaining immigrants accused of being in the country illegally. The group says as a result, the immigrants should be released.
But "no detainees/inmates have formally notified staff of high heat conditions and/or requested medical attention due to heat exhaustion in the facility," Bergen County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Keisha McLean said Tuesday. She said the jail was "undergoing scheduled electrical maintenance" which may require inmates or detainees to "relocate from time to time."
On Monday, the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project issued a release, saying it had sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the weekend, demanding the release of clients due to the "oppressive and dangerous" conditions.
Responding to a request from New Jersey 101.5, McLean said the office monitors air conditioning and housing unit temperatures in the jail three times a day, with the average temperature ranging "between 70-73 degrees."
McLean also said if any units are not suitable for inmates or detainees, "provisions are made to remedy the discomfort," which includes relocation to other areas.
"The soaring temperatures and lack of ventilation are especially dangerous as detained immigrants and staff continue to face the threat of the spread of COVID-19 within the facility," the joint statement from NYIFUP said.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among federal detainees at Bergen County jail, according to the ICE coronavirus website and McLean.
Since the pandemic first hit New Jersey with a confirmed case on March, 2 detainees have tested positive at Bergen County jail — but only one was released as per ICE, McLean said. One county inmate and roughly 30 corrections officers, sheriff's officers and jail nursing staff also have tested positive.
NYIFUP is made up of the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services and The Bronx Defenders, as organizations providing free legal representation to people being detained by ICE.
The Bronx Defenders also retweeted a reporter's claim that the same issue was being dealt with almost exactly one year ago.
As previously reported by NJ.com, protesters gathered outside Bergen County Jail in July 2019, amid similar reports of malfunctioning air conditioning at the facility.
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