Posted on March 16, 2017
City Council seeks protections for immigrants paralyzed by fear
Originally Published in New York Daily News on March 15, 2017
Written by Erin Durkin
The City Council may move to bar immigration agents from certain court facilities or stop NYPD cops from asking people for their place of birth, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Wednesday.
Some immigrants in the city have grown so scared of deportation that they’re skipping court appearances, keeping kids out of school or avoiding medical centers, advocacy groups told the Council.
“A lot of folks don’t even send their children to school. They don’t send their children to the medical center. They’re afraid to have an encounter with ICE,” said Carlos Vargas of Make the Road New York.
“The number one question is what will happen to my children if I get deported,” he said, adding others are saying, “I don’t want to go to court, because I am afraid.”
Mark-Viverito said she’d consider proposals from advocates to bar ICE agents from non-public areas of city courthouses and stop asking people for their place of birth when they’re arrested and booked, information that can be used by the feds to find people in the country illegally.
“We have to have policies to back up and reinforce our rhetoric,” she said, adding the Council will study whether such moves could be made through legislation or policy changes.
“I have never before seen the level of terror that is now gripping our communities,” said Peter Markowitz, director of the immigration clinic at the Cardozo School of Law.
“I have heard from New Yorkers who are afraid to leave their houses or take the subway. New Yorkers who have abandoned city services and missed court appearances because they fear ICE will be waiting for them,” he said. “I heard from a local soup kitchen recently that a long line of immigrants waiting for food fled when a NYPD Community Affairs officer began speaking to people on the line. He was there to help, but with immigration agents routinely and deceptively identifying themselves as police officers, New Yorkers don’t know who they can trust.”
Markowitz charged President Trump’s policies smack of “ethnically cleansing our nation of brown and black immigrants.”
Mark-Viverito seized on that comment, saying it’s “very strong language” but not without basis.
“There clearly is a sense of purging, or implementing policies to purge certain groups of people from this country,” she said.
Lucy, a Staten Island mom who wouldn’t give her last name because she fears authorities, said she saw her husband arrested by ICE outside a courthouse last month while their 17-year-old daughter looked on.
“My husband is the protector and the sole provider of our house. I had a home and a family, but they, the immigration system took it away from us,” she said. “Now we live in fear, because now we are left alone.”