Press Release: Anti-Violence Advocates Commend City Council’s Efforts, Call for Further Protections

CONTACTS:
Pooja Gehi: (202) 491-7665
Tiloma Jayasinghe: (917) 669-0696

ANTI-VIOLENCE ADVOCATES COMMEND CITY COUNCIL’S EFFORTS TO LIMIT HARM OF SECURE COMMUNITIES PROGRAM;
CALL FOR FURTHER PROTECTIONS

December 13, 2012 New York, NY – A coalition of anti-violence advocates who work with immigrant survivors of family and intimate partner violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, and survivors of homophobic and transphobic violence in New York welcomed legislation introduced today by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Daniel Dromm that would limit the application of the federal Secure Communities Program in New York City, but emphasized that more needs to be done to protect survivors of violence from deportation resulting from collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The City’s proposal to refuse to honor ICE holds— requests to turn over a detainee to immigration detention—in select cases is an important step in acknowledging that there is no place for ICE in our criminal justice system.

The activation of ICE’s “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) this past May—where police send every arrestee’s fingerprints to immigration at booking to allow for the rapid identification of potential deportees—has greatly expanded the reach of immigration enforcement in New York. S-Comm severely undermines community safety by fueling racial profiling, mistrust in the police, and unjust deportations. The many stories of survivors facing deportation speak to the dangers of the expanding collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE (learn more from stories compiled by the Anti-Violence Advocates, available at http://wp.me/a1ucIS-1B).

“S-Comm is a serious threat. Survivors commonly end up in the criminal justice system because abusers make false allegations against them, such as assault and violations of orders of protection,” noted Tiloma Jayasinghe, Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Women. “A survivor who faces any time in incarceration risks the loss of custody of his or her children to an abuser. The threat of deportation following arrest gives abusers another tool of control to use against survivors.”

“We are thankful for the City Council’s efforts to limit the City’s involvement in federal immigration enforcement, and are especially relieved that those with past prostitution convictions will not be turned over to ICE,” said Sienna Baskin, Co-Director of The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center.  “However, our clients, including survivors of trafficking, are routinely targeted by police and convicted for a range of crimes. This bill does not go far enough to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from being deported before they can be identified and assisted.”

“While this bill offers some positive developments, much more needs to be done to protect LGBT, and particularly transgender, immigrants from deportation due to the hostile and punitive conditions they face daily and while incarcerated,” said Pooja Gehi of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “Police profile and target LGBT immigrants for arrest for a range of offenses from lewd conduct to petty theft, obstruction of justice and simple assault. LGBT, and particularly transgender, victims of violence are all too often falsely arrested as perpetrators of violence. Unfortunately, the legislation as it stands will not protect them if they have a prior conviction for one of these offenses, which is the case for all too many transgender New Yorkers.”

“The collaboration between ICE and police places non-citizens survivors at an increased risk for violence. It makes it incredibly challenging for advocates to advise non-citizen survivors about police involvement in intimate partner violence situations due to the heightened risk of deportation that now comes with an arrest,” said Cecilia Gastón, Executive Director of the Violence Intervention Project, Inc. “While we appreciate this legislation as a positive step, the negative consequences of ICE’s presence in our criminal justice system cannot be underestimated. We look forward to working with the City Council on the next step—to remove ICE completely to meaningfully protect non-citizen survivors of violence and our vibrant immigrant communities.”

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