New York, the quintessential immigrant city, is a friendly and safe place for its almost three million foreign born residents.
Or is it?
Only if you compare it to, say, Arizona. That’s what one can conclude after reading a report released on Monday by the Immigrant Defense Project and Families for Freedom in conjunction with the New York University School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic.
“We now have hard evidence that ICE practices are terrorizing our city’s immigrant communities,” said Alisa Wellek, deputy director of the Immigrant Defense Project.
The report, titled Insecure Communities, Devastated Families, makes public for the first time previously secret federal government statistics about detention and deportation practices. The extent — and the harsh impact — that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations have on city residents and their families will probably surprise many people.
Mayor Bloomberg has said that immigrants “have always been and will always be welcome here,” but the picture painted by the report directly contradicts his words.
“The deportation system is devastating families by not only threatening to exile their loved ones,” the report says, “but also often forcing immigrants to fight their cases for years while locked up in far-away immigration jails.”
Transfers outside the state — nearly 20,000 from Oct. 2005 to Dec. 2010 — occurred regardless of whether those detained had U.S. citizen children. The majority of deportation cases of parents resulted in their deportation.
Readers probably remember the case of Jackson Heights resident Humayun Kabir Chowdhury, a taxi driver and family man born in Bangladesh, who was released by ICE on July 1, from the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala., after nearly one year deprived of freedom while awaiting deportation.
During that time, Chowdhury, who has lived in New York for 21 years — has a clean record and a U.S-born son, — was transferred to 10 different detention centers in six states. Go figure.
The NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic obtained the data on which the report is based through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. What they found is no less than astounding: During the period studied 77% of New Yorkers in deportation were funneled directly from the criminal justice system, and 91% of those in immigration jails lost their cases.
Of those deported, 35% were from Queens, 29% from Brooklyn, 19% from the Bronx and 14% from Manhattan — an order that follows the population of immigrants in the boroughs.
“The data is a direct reflection of our members’ experiences here in New York City as a result of the detention to deportation pipeline,” said Abraham Paulos, executive director of Families for Freedom.
John Feinblatt, Bloomberg’s chief policy advisor, has called New York “the most immigrant-friendly city in the nation.”
But, as the report clearly shows, in reality “New York City, contrary to its reputation as an immigrant-friendly city, has become home to a dragnet by which immigrants are funneled into ICE detention, mainly through the local criminal justice system, in a haphazard way that has little to do with public safety.”
“New York City needs to demonstrate leadership by refusing to participate in this deportation regime,” said Michelle Fei, executive director of the Immigrant Defense Project.
Until it does, New York, the quintessential immigrant city, contrary to its reputation, will not be a friendly and safe place for immigrants.
aruiz [at] nydailynews [dot] com