Immigrants To De Blasio: Get Off Your Soapbox and Stop Helping the Feds Deport Us

Karina Garcia of the Answer Coalition speaks to the crowd.
Karina Garcia of the Answer Coalition speaks to the crowd.
Max Rivlin-Nadler

Just steps from City Hall, where New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has loudly proclaimed New York City a “sanctuary” for immigrants in the age of Donald Trump, activists and community groups criticized his refusal to look into the ways his police department directly helps Trump’s deportation machine.

“If Mayor de Blasio really wants this to be a sanctuary city for everybody, he has to look at Broken Windows, which is directly affecting our sanctuary status,” said Alex Franco, a member of ICE-FREE NYC, an organization which seeks to end all collaboration between the NYPD and federal immigration authorities. “Whenever anyone is arrested in New York City, they’re fingerprinted, their fingerprints goes directly into a FBI database, that database is then used by ICE to locate undocumented immigrants, even if they haven’t been charged with the crime.”

For years, the NYPD has been making its immigrant population extremely vulnerable to deportation by cracking down on low-level offenses like turnstile jumping or loitering. A “Broken Windows” policing policy has been central to de Blasio’s law enforcement strategy, and one he has been steadfastly opposed to back-tracking on. Now, with a new Executive Order that puts any undocumented immigrant or green card holder that is arrested by the NYPD at immediate risk for deportation, de Blasio refuses to face the reality that instead of a haven, New York City presents a serious danger to immigrants.

“You cannot claim to be a sanctuary city mayor de Blasio, if your policing model floods immigrant communities with cops whose mission it is to rack up arrests and summonses in huge amounts,” said Karina Garcia, an organizer with the ANSWER coalition. “You cannot maintain the narrative that only the so-called bad immigrants, the so-called criminals, are being fed to ICE’s deportation machine when your policing theory is based on broken windows, which criminalizes everything from selling DVD’s on the street, to jumping a turnstile because you can’t afford the fare.”

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On Monday, in a shocking moment of testimony in front of the state assembly, de Blasio told lawmakers that he was willing to add to the list of 170 offenses that were exempted from the city’s “detainer law,” which discourages cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. In essence, he announced he was willing to make even more crimes eligible for the NYPD to hand you over to the Feds. This sentiment was rejected by de Blasio’s staunch ally, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who said on Wednesday that she was “comfortable with where we’re at," in regards to the 170 offenses.

“This new executive order highlights the need for ‘Broken Windows’ policing to be done away with once and for all,” said Alma Magaña, a lawyer at Legal Aid. “The stark new reality that our immigrant community faces is an expansion of the definition of criminal. If you’re only accused of a crime, you’re now a priority for deportation. Every time police are out there arresting people who have no status, those individuals are being picked up by ICE. This is already happening. Broken Windows will now allow ICE to pick up every single person without status who is just arrested.”

Other major cities that consider themselves “sanctuaries” are not waiting for a lawsuit to help shield their immigrants from over-policing. Yesterday, Los Angeles sped up a pending bill that would decriminalize street vendors, spurred on by Trump’s executive order. It instructed the LAPD to no longer arrest street vendors. “We can’t simply talk about opposing Trump’s policies or nominees,” Los Angeles city councilmember Joe Buscaino told the L.A. Times on Tuesday. “We need to take serious actions like this one.”

Back on the east coast, New York’s own city council members, with the lone exception of Queens councilmember Rory Lancman, have been dodging the issue. Spotted outside the rally, Brooklyn councilmember Carlos Menchaca told immigration advocates that ending broken windows policing “was more than we can handle right now.”

But a matter of bandwidth shouldn’t be an issue for politicians who seem more ready to grandstand about New York City's sanctuary status than take any sort of meaningful action.

Tania Mattos, 31, a DACA recipient and organizer at UnLocal, a legal service organization for immigrants, knows just what the stakes are.

“I have a deportation order already. I would be one of the first to go,” she told the crowd. “It’s not okay that the mayor can say that he’s a progressive mayor and not do anything to protect immigrants, that the City Council can not do anything. I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, and police are all over immigrant communities enforcing Broken Windows. This is just unacceptable.”


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