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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

IMMIGRATION OUT OF RIKERS: Get New York City Out of the Deportation Business

UPDATE: Read the statement from Make the Road New York and other community and legal groups to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security demanding justice for detainees at Varick Federal Detention Facility in Manhattan.

York, NY – On August 25th,
a coalition of immigrant advocates and religious leaders, including Make the
Road New York, the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, and Northern
Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, gathered with community members at
Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan to
launch a campaign to end New York
City’s involvement in the federal governments’
enforcement-only immigration policy.

Over the past several years, federal immigration
agents have established a permanent presence on Rikers Island and in other New York City
Department of Corrections (“DOC”) facilities. Without any oversight, accountability or written agreement U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents have regularly engaged
coercive and deceitful interrogations of DOC detainees. Data from a Freedom of
Information Act request, released for the first time today, demonstrates that
approximately 4,000 DOC detainees are subject to such ICE interrogations each
year, leading to deportation proceedings for approximately 3,000 New Yorkers per
year. “Each time a New Yorker is plucked
out of Rikers and sent into the black hole of immigration detention, there is a
New York City family left behind – leaving the
deportees’ families abandoned in New
York and dependent on our City’s strained social service
system. It is not in our City’s interest
to be complicit in a federal deportation policy hijacked by the politics of
fear,” said Rev. Giovanny Sanchez, Senior Minister of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Brooklyn and a leader of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

The large majority of people in DOC custody targeted
for these ICE interrogations are pre-trial detainees who still enjoy the
presumption of innocence. During these
interrogations, ICE agents use heavy-handed tactics and routinely deny the
detainees their most basic constitutional rights – including the right to be
represented by an attorney. As a result,
many New Yorkers who were wrongfully arrested, who are later found not guilty of
any crime, who were arrested for minor charges, who are eligible for or in the
process of getting legal status, who are asylees and refugees fleeing
persecution, or who are green card holders who have spent nearly all their lives
in New York end up in immigration detention. “The reality is that immigrants are becoming less willing to call the
police when they are witnesses or victims of crimes because they fear that even
a wrongful arrest can lead to deportation. When any community is fearful of the police it makes us all less safe,”
says Javier H. Valdes, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York.

“My brother in law did nothing wrong. He worked paid his taxes and raised his
family.The charges they put him in
Rikers for were dropped but now because of ICE he is in detention in Texas. ICE is trying to give him a life sentence of
exile from his family,” adds Florentina a member of Make the Road New

Following meetings with the above groups, former DOC
Commissioner Horn agreed to make some positive changes to help protect the
rights of those interviewed by ICE at Rikers. From now on, before being interviewed, detainees will have to sign a form
consenting to the interview with ICE and DOC corrections officers will be given
training so that they can make detainees aware that the interviews are

Today, the advocates and religious leaders announced
a campaign to get New
York out of the deportation business. They plan to advance City Council legislation
to end New York
City’s participation in ICE’s dishonest, immoral, and
dangerous enforcement operations by, at minimum:

  • Refusing to allow ICE access to pre-trial detainees.
  • Prohibiting the collection or sharing of immigration data about pre-trial
    detainees with ICE.
  • Refusing
    to accept ICE detainers on New Yorkers who have been promised a path to
  • Requiring
    ICE to observe the legal rights of all New York City detainees.

  • Click here to read the campaign platform.


    New York Times: Immigration Officials Often Detain Foreign-Born Rikers Inmates for Deportation

    NY1: Advocates Call To End Inmate Deportations

    WNYC: Immigrant Advocates Report Deportation Plans for Rikers Inmates

    El Diario: ‘Saquen a la migra de cárceles’

    NY1 Noticias: Piden frenar la deportación de reclusos

    Univision/AP: Protestan por deportación de extranjeros detenidos en NY

    Drum Major Institute: Obama’s Immigration Enforcement Approach Hurting NYC

    WCBS/AP: Rikers Island Inmates Targeted for Deportation