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Legal battle ensues over New Jersey’s ban on immigrant detention centers

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The GEO Group, a Florida-based company specializing in correctional and detention facilities, has filed a lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s ban on new immigrant detention centers.

The company aims to overturn the state’s policy, asserting that it infringes upon federal law and jeopardizes its plans to open a new facility in Newark.

The lawsuit, filed by the GEO Group, targets New Jersey’s prohibition on immigrant detention centers, citing violations of the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause. This clause stipulates that federal law takes precedence over conflicting state laws. The company argues that the state’s ban undermines its contractual agreements, particularly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which amounts to over $100 million.

The focal point of the legal dispute revolves around Delaney Hall, a proposed 1,196-bed facility intended for various detainee populations. The facility has historically housed county, state, and federal detainees over the past 25 years, with the GEO Group now facing substantial financial implications due to the state’s regulatory stance.

New Jersey’s stance on immigrant detention centers has undergone significant shifts, notably highlighted by Governor Phil Murphy’s signing of the ban in August 2021. This legislative move represents a departure from the state’s previous engagement with such facilities, which had been lucrative for counties like Bergen, Essex, and Hudson.

The lawsuit draws attention to a prior legal precedent where a federal judge partially struck down the state law following a challenge by CoreCivic, another private firm, on similar constitutional grounds.

District Court Judge Robert Kirsch, who presided over the previous case, will oversee the GEO Group’s appeal, adding complexity to the ongoing legal battle.

According to the lawsuit, the GEO Group currently operates multiple detention facilities across the United States under contracts with ICE, collectively accommodating approximately 19,000 beds.

The outcome of this legal confrontation will not only impact the company’s business interests but also holds broader implications for the intersection of federal and state jurisdiction in matters of immigration detention policy.

The forthcoming legal proceedings will undoubtedly be closely monitored for their potential implications on both the immigrant detention landscape and constitutional interpretations governing state and federal interactions.

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