Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sojourners from Riverside Church Visit Elizabeth Detention Center Detainees

Helen O'Neill of the Associated Press wrote an article titled Sojourners Are There For Detainees, which describes how members of the Sojourners at Riverside Church in New York City visit some of the detainees in the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

For 10 years, the group's members have been making visits to be a friendly face for an hour and to make a commitment to be a real friend to the detainees, some of whom sit in detention for well over a year while fighting their asylum cases. Critics of the detention center question why conditions have to be so harsh inside -- detainees wear prison uniforms and are addressed by number, not by their name. They are allowed no physical contact -- the visiting room has plexiglass barriers separating them from their visitors. There is no outdoor space for detainees to get exercise or fresh air, just one room with an open skylight for one hour a day of recreation.

Detainees are also given no right to appointed counsel, even if they can't afford one.

Some of the detainees that the sojourners visit are able to get free, pro bono counsel, but not all do. One couple received pro bono legal repesentation from Elissa Steglich of the American Friends Service Committee, who worked frantically to save the couple from deportation after they lost their asylum case, but were filing an appeal to a federal court. Steglich points out that detainees with asylum claims should have an absolute right to counsel.

Human rights groups compain that detention amounts to criminalizing them. Others criticize the profits earned by private corporation who run the detention centers. ICE officials said it costs around $175 per day to detain someone in Elizabeth, NJ, though they would not say how much ICE pays CCA to run the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ASC Biometrics Address Clarification in Elizabeth, New Jersey

In December 2008, USCIS closed its application support center (where it took biometrics such as fingerprints and photographs) in Newark, New Jersey and opened up a new center in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

The correct address for the biometrics center in Elizabeth, New Jersey is:
285 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, New Jersey

It is not in Elizabeth City, NJ.

USCIS has made a mistake in many of the letters it sent out. By mistake, they incorrectly told many applicants that the address was 285 Broad Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey. (Actually, USCIS often tells applicants to go to 285-299 Broad Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey.) That is not the correct address. (Some mapping programs will correctly figure out the correct place to go, but some mapping programs will make an incorrect guess about what that means.)

Tell your friends -- the ASC in Elizabeth is on North Broad Street. If they punch in the incorrect address and their computer program leads them to Newark, NJ, they are going the wrong way.

Any tips on how to spot it? There is a Bank of America at 288 North Broad Street in Elizabeth, NJ, so one way to search for the right building is to drive on North Broad Street and look for the Bank of America, then look across the street!

Update, September 2009: good news, USCIS is aware that a bunch of the notices that various offices send out from different parts of the country for biometrics in Elizabeth, NJ still have the wrong city name and the wrong ZIP code. USCIS is still working on getting it fixed and has already been trying to fix it. In the meantime, keep aware that for over nine months, USCIS has been and still is sending out biometrics appointment notices that do not have the address exactly correctly written. We can hope, though, that one day USCIS will tell people the exactly correct address! And we appreciate their hard work in trying to fix the mistake.