May 29, 2014
Joseph Ponte, Commissioner
New York City Department of Correction
75-20 Astoria Blvd.
East Elmhurst, NY 11370
Subject: The ICE-FREE NYC Campaign urges the Department of Corrections to stop collaborating with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) on detainer requests/holds
Dear Commissioner Joseph Ponte,
On behalf of the ICE-FREE NYC Campaign (icefreenyc.com), we write to ask that you immediately stop the practice of holding non-citizens in custody of the New York City Department of Corrections (NYC-DOC) on the basis of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention requests (ICE form I-247). We are individuals, families, community members and organizations defending our right to remain in New York City and working to preserve our legacy as a city of immigrants. Our campaign calls on New York City, including the DOC, to end all collaboration with ICE.
Across the country, courts and federal officials, including Acting Director of ICE David Ragsdale, have acknowledged that detainers are mere requests, not commands. A federal judge in Central Oregon decided in April of 2014 that Ms. Miranda-Olivares’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Clackamas County incarcerated her without probable cause based on ICE’s request to detain her. Because the County violated her constitutional rights, they will have to pay her. Similar court rulings have prompted more than 50 local law enforcement agencies to revisit their policies and adopt policies that effectively prohibit honoring all ICE detainers. As the city with the largest immigrant population, we urge the NYC-DOC to join the countless law enforcement agencies that no longer honor ICE detainers.
In New York City, a previous study has demonstrated that honoring ICE detainers imposes serious challenges on our families, communities, and our city. Since NYC-DOC’s practice of detaining New Yorkers pursuant to an ICE detainer, the parents of thousands of U.S. citizen children have been apprehended and eventually deported. From October 2005 through December 2010, the parents of 13,521 U.S. citizen children were apprehended in New York. The absence of one or both parents has long-lasting effects on children’s wellbeing, as well as their future educational and career achievements. When the NYC-DOC honors any ICE detainers, it sets off a traumatic chain of events that ripple through New York communities: a spouse or a partner is seriously strained and must now do the work of two, a child lives with an uncertain future, an employer is left with work undone, and a landlord is left without a rent check.
While the NYC-DOC sometimes regulates the use of ICE detainers, it can do better by stopping them altogether. For example, after much touted reforms, between October 2012 and September 2013, the NYC-DOC still honored ICE detainers in 73 percent of cases and spent more than $50 million detaining New Yorkers pursuant to ICE detainers. Alarmingly, ICE successfully transferred its expenditures onto the NYC-DOC when only reimbursing your department approximately $9 million, leaving New York taxpayers to foot the $40 million bill. Additionally, you are at risk of facing and losing costly lawsuits. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has clarified that a detainer is only a request and local administrations are not required to comply. In March of 2014, the Third Circuit concluded in Galarza v. Szalczyk, et al. that immigration detainers do not and cannot compel a state or local law enforcement agency to detain people they suspect are subject to removal. The ruling further recognizes that states and localities may share liability when they participate in wrongful immigration detentions.
Any policy that honors detainers in NYC undoes historic civil rights gains and the important work being done to end racially biased and harmful Stop and Frisk culture. Studies show that every stage of the criminal justice system (from Stop and Frisk , to legal representation, to sentencing ) is racially biased against poor people of color. This is the population that makes up the majority of the 13,000 inmates imprisoned at NYC’s Rikers Island on any given day. Allowing ICE to operate in the city jails extends the reach of mass incarceration by keeping non-citizens detained for longer periods. A policy against ICE hold requests would not release anyone into the community who is not otherwise eligible to be released. People are only released from custody in the criminal legal system once they have served their time. There is no justifiable reason to treat people’s cases differently just because they are not citizens suspected of having civil immigration issues.
Additionally, the NYC-DOC must not trust ICE and can face mounting financial expenditures in legal liability and detention costs. Using imposturous techniques, ICE is resorting to issuing administrative warrants (Form I-200) in place of detainers. Although these are labeled “warrants,” they are only issued by an ICE agent, not approved by a judge, and does not safeguard civilians’ constitutional rights. At least one federal district court has found that an ICE “warrant” is not a valid warrant.
The costs of honoring ICE detainers include not only concrete financial expenditures that can be measured in dollars, but also the innumerable cost of tearing the social fabric of our city’s future. We urge the New York City of Department of Corrections to stop the practice of holding New Yorkers in custody on the basis of ICE detainers and promptly join the growing number of local law enforcement agencies across the country that choose not to honor ICE detainers altogether.
Commissioner Ponte, you have the power to help build a stronger city – and you will be supported in doing so.
We ask that you provide ICE-FREE NYC a written response to this letter at email@example.com.
Signees on behalf of the Steering Committee of ICE-FREE NYC
Sarah Pomar Flores
Sonia A. Sánchez