NEW YORK, NY – This Tuesday, Members of the Migrant Power Alliance (MPA) and affiliated migrant and racial justice and human rights organizations including Families for Freedom, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Raza Youth Collective and others, will kick off the ICE-FREE NYC Campaign at 11am with a press conference at 26 Federal Plaza (on the steps on Lafayette St. near the corner of Worth) calling on New York City to end all collaboration with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). The campaign is led by directly affected New Yorkers. We believe all New Yorkers have the right to remain with their loved ones and communities and the freedom to live free from fear of deportation.
Ice-Free NYC’s current efforts are to educate the public and public officials about the current environment and share stories about how New Yorkers are affected by our city’s collaboration with ICE which is shattering lives, families and communities through racial profiling, detention and deportation. We call on New York to honor the bright line of separation between all NYC agencies and ICE, making our city safer for all New Yorkers. Our education and advocacy work is summed up by these 3 demands:
1. DOC and NYPD must end all collaboration with ICE.
2. New Yorkers should feel safe in any city agency without the threat of deportation.
3. NYC should use resources to strengthen families, not tear them apart.
Currently, the New York Police Department and Department Of Corrections hand over thousands of New Yorkers to ICE through detainer requests (also known as immigration holds). The DOC has for many years placed ICE holds on people at Riker’s Island and recently we have found that there are also sensitive locations like homeless shelters, courts, etc. where people are intercepted and handed over to ICE. Detainers are not mandatory; they are non-binding requests for local police to hold a person beyond the time they otherwise would have been held in order to facilitate transfer to federal custody with no access to posting bail, no meaningful access to legal counsel, separated from family some times in a network of detention centers out of state and with little chance of successfully fighting their deportation cases.
New York City’s detainer policy undoes historic civil rights gains and the important work being done to end racially biased and harmful Stop and Frisk culture. Studies show that every stage of the criminal justice system (from Stop and Frisk, to legal representation, to sentencing) is racially biased against poor people of color. This is the population that makes up the majority of the 13,000 inmates imprisoned at NYC’s Rikers Island on any given day. Allowing ICE to operate in the city jails extends the reach of mass incarceration by keeping non-citizens detained for longer periods. A policy against ICE hold requests would not release anyone into the community who is not otherwise eligible to be released. People are only released from custody in the criminal legal system once they have served their time. There is no justifiable reason to treat people’s cases differently just because they are not citizens suspected of having civil immigration issues.
New York City must use its resources to support families instead of spending millions of dollars to separate our loved ones. Instead of squandering resources, they could be better used to invest in alternative sentencing, rehabilitation and reintegration for returning community members who have served time. It’s time for New York City to be a leader amongst US cities to stop ALL collaboration with ICE.
Campaign member Abraham Paulos, Executive Director of Families for Freedom said, “ICE detainers initiate a chain of traumatic events. New York City, with an iconic immigrant history is choosing to comply with current policy, but our campaign presents the opportunity to reverse course from that shameful legacy.” He added, “Officials and the public need to know that due to this policy, children are left without a parent, a spouse or partner must do the work of two, employers are left without work done, landlords are left without a rent check, and the community is left to pick up the pieces.”
Current policy makes local law enforcement functionally agents of immigration enforcement, and keeps immigrant New Yorkers in terror due to fear that any interaction with local police will lead to detention. As a result, people are less likely to assert their rights when mistakenly stopped, harassed or racially profiled by police or when reporting crimes or cooperating as witnesses, making it harder to ensure community safety.
NYC’s city council and Mayor de Blasio have an opportunity to help build a city based on public trust, public safety and human rights for all New Yorkers. Mayor de Blasio has said he wants to create a ‘safer and more accessible’ New York City for all immigrants. At the same time, we are concerned that in his immigration plan, while he talks about ending ICE collaboration with detainers he makes a serious exception, leaving out those convicted of “violent or serious felonies.” Although excluding people with convictions seems like a public safety measure, in reality, cases in this category are rampant with serious violations and injustice. People with convictions deserve to remain with their families too. New York City can do better.