Close to 1,000 Latino immigrant workers, students and members of Make the Road New York (MRNY) marched this week over the Brooklyn Bridge and rallied at City Hall Park to call on the City to put an end to the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) collaboration with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and cease unjust deportations. Demonstrators were joined by City Council Members Daniel Dromm, Brad Lander, Leticia James and James Van Bramer, as well as clergy members Reverend Bob Coleman of Riverside Church, Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial Church, Father James Kelly of St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church, Father Fabian Arias, Sister Lilly Butler and Reverend Susan Switzer.
MRNY Deputy Director Javier H. Valdes said, «It is time for Mayor Bloomberg to stand up and say that New York City will not be a partner in an unjust immigration system. Thousands of New York families are torn apart each year by an enforcement system that denies New Yorkers an opportunity for a fair hearing, and, instead ships innocent New Yorkers to states far away where they have no access to attorneys or their families.»
«It is time for New York City to get out of the deportation business,» said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. «As a City that embraces our immigrant communities, it is unacceptable that the Department of Corrections is unnecessarily facilitating the deportation of thousands of immigrants each year by collaborating with ICE. The City must exercise greater discretion in its sharing of information and granting of access to ICE, to avoid the needless separation of families, not to mention the use of City taxpayer dollars in support of our nation’s broken immigration enforcement system.»
Every year DOC transfers 3000-4000 New Yorkers to ICE’s custody at considerable expense to the City, even though the City is under no legal obligation to do so. Neither ICE nor DOC exercises any discretion when deciding who to send into the black hole of immigration detention. New York asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, long term permanent residents, juveniles, persons seeking protection under the Violence Against Women Act, and individuals with NO criminal record are routinely sent by DOC into immigration detention. These City residents are often sent thousands of miles away to immigration jails in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama, where they are held in deplorable conditions without adequate access to counsel, medical care, family, witnesses, and evidence necessary to defend themselves against deportation orders. This collaboration breaks families apart, additionally strains the public support system, affects public safety and damages the relationship of trust NYC seeks to establish with immigrant communities.
Make the Road New York member Fiorentina Williams, an immigrant from Queens said, «We need to make sure that New York City gets out of the deportation system. My brother in law was found innocent of a crime, but he was still placed in deportation proceedings and was taken to Texas, leaving his family behind with no one to support them financially.»
«In America, we have a constitutional right that guarantees that we are innocent until proven guilty and this policy violates that right,» said New York City Council Member and Chair of the Immigration Committee, Daniel Dromm. «We must send a strong message to the Mayor that this policy must end immediately because it is unfair and unjust. We must remove ICE from Rikers and ensure that our immigrant families and communities are protected from these immoral and dangerous enforcement operations.»
Demonstrators called on the City Council and the Mayor to pass new legislation that:
- Prohibits DOC from subsidizing ICE’s civil enforcement efforts unless an individual has been convicted of a violent felony;
- Codifies recent safeguards that the DOC has implemented to impose basic standards of conduct for ICE agents operating in DOC facilities; and
- Ensures the New York City will not participate in ICE’s latest flawed immigration enforcement program: Secure Communities.
«It is time for NYC to end its subsidy of the broken federal deportation system. As long as the NYC criminal justice system is the gateway into immigration detention, immigrant victims of crime will suffer in silence, and police investigations will be met with closed doors. The Department of Corrections’ current policy makes us all less safe,» said Peter L. Markowitz, Professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Immigration Justice Clinic.
«I am deeply concerned about the Secure Communities Program and the negative impact this collaboration would have on community trust in policing, the potential for racial profiling, and most importantly, the funneling of thousands on New Yorkers into the black hole of immigration detention and deportation with almost no opportunities for relief,» said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. «My office is currently drafting a resolution to call on Governor Paterson to immediately rescind the Memorandum of Agreement that he signed with ICE earlier this year. The State should use its resources properly – not to deport New Yorkers but rather to keep NY families together, promote public safety, limit its exposure to liability, and protect the rights of its most vulnerable residents.»