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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Immigrants Now Fear Deportation

Queens repairman Delio Nuñez wanted to become a United States citizen, but instead he was forced to turn himself in to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Tuesday, November 1.

Nuñez, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a young child, is facing deportation for a decades-old armed robbery and is pending a bond hearing.

“I’m living my life, trying to do the right thing and become a citizen,” he told the New York Daily News. “I already paid for what I did. It was a stupid thing, hanging out with the wrong people.”

Advocates for immigrants estimate that New York City is spending over $50 million to hold individuals like Nuñez in the city’s Department of Correction (DOC) custody at ICE’s request. New findings by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research organization, also demonstrate that anyone in DOC custody who can be deported is being transferred to ICE custody, including many lawful permanent residents and individuals with no criminal record.

What worries advocates the most is that New York State has entered into an agreement with ICE to implement the “Secure Communities” program, which requires police agencies to check the digital fingerprints of all arrested individuals during the booking process against FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records. So far, no county in New York has yet begun participating in the immigration enforcement program since its approval in May.

“New York City is funneling 3,000 to 4,000 New Yorkers a year from DOC custody into the black hole of immigration detention,” said Javier H. Valdes, deputy director of Make the Road New York, a non-profit immigrants’ rights group. “The human, public safety and fiscal costs to the city from DOC’s current policy are tremendous and unjustified. We are urging the city to adopt a sensible and balanced approach to this issue.”

In response, the New York City Council held an oversight hearing on Wednesday, November 10 to investigate DOC’s role in the deportation of New Yorkers. Advocates, legal experts, and affected immigrants called on the City Council to pass new legislation requiring DOC to assist ICE by detaining only those individuals who pose a serious risk, and to opt-out of what they call the misnamed federal Secure Communities program.

“We all want to make sure we have a safe society, however the Secure Communities Program is violating what we believe are good measures,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who is the chair of the Immigration Committee. “This policy divides families and creates distrust with immigrant communities and authorities because they will fear facing deportation.”