NORTH BERGEN, NJ — Hudson County Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri is releasing the following statement in response to comments made last night by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker regarding Hudson County’s longstanding contract with the federal Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigrant detainees at county jail facilities.

“Senator Menendez and Senator Booker have had two years to work with Hudson County leaders on finding a path forward regarding the ICE contract that would be fair to both county taxpayers and the detainees themselves, and it’s infuriating after all of this time and after the vote has already been taken to parachute in now and try to tell Hudson County government how it should operate,” said Freeholder Chairman Vainieri. “Where have they been? To my knowledge, they have never even contacted anyone in county government about this issue and they offered no prior notification that they planned to speak out on it publicly late last night. The Senators have had a long time to constructively engage and work with us and failed to do so, and their statements are nothing but an attempt to shield themselves from criticism from activists who do not speak for the majority of Hudson County residents. Even more disturbingly, Senator Booker just ran for reelection on the same ticket as the entire Hudson County Freeholder Board — if he felt this way about this issue, why did he wait until after the election to talk about it?

Hudson County is committed to working with the incoming Biden administration and the new leadership the President-elect, who we strongly supported in Hudson County, will appoint at ICE to continue our longstanding partnership that predated the current administration. We will take their lead as to the future of the contract and how ICE operates, and we have faith in their ability to accomplish the agency’s mission in a humane way. We have made tremendous investments in our facility and provide a full range of services to detainees, from free legal representation to English as a second language classes and much more. We will not back out of this agreement without a solid plan ensuring that these detainees will have continued access to the important services we provide for them, that they will be kept close to their families and that Hudson County taxpayers will be protected.

As an elected official, I believe that government functions best when all levels communicate with each other and work towards common goals. I hope that in the future Senator Menendez and Senator Booker will choose to work together with us on important issues instead of relying on press statements that do nothing productive and only inflame the situation even more.”