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ICE out of Rikers

ICE out of Rikers Campaign

How is New York City Collaborating with ICE?

The Department of Corrections (DOC) allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to interrogate people held at the Rikers Island jail facility.

Rikers Island is a pre-trial detention facility for people who cannot make bail. They have not yet been found guilty of anything and many will have their cases dismissed or will be found liable only for minor offenses. DOC now allows ICE agents to question them before they are tried.

When ICE finds somebody who might be deportable, ICE puts a “detainer” on that person.

A detainer is a request to NYC to continue to hold the person until ICE can transfer him or her to an immigration detention center. People under a detainer cannot be released on bail.

DOC has been accepting these detainers and continues to hold people who would otherwise be released from jail. So even if they were found not guilty, or if they had already served a short sentence for a minor offense like trespassing or a traffic violation, a person under a detainer is kept in jail and then immigration detention for a long time and ultimately may be deported.

How does this hurt New Yorkers?

NYC families are torn apart when an immigrant member is deported. In many cases, the spouses or children who are left behind may have to rely on City-funded programs to survive.

NYC tax dollars also pay the costs of holding people on federal immigration detainers.

NYC residents are being forced by the City’s agreements with ICE to participate in a broken immigration system that can impose a punishment of exile by deportation – too often vastly disproportionate to the charges that brought people to the Rikers Island jails.

What has been done to change this situation?

The New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC and its partners, the immigration law clinics of New York University Law School and Cardozo Law School and Make the Road NY, have been meeting with DOC for several years to ask the City to stop cooperating with ICE at Rikers.

Our efforts have resulted in some helpful changes.

Now, the ICE agents have to wear uniforms so the detainees know that they are not talking to a friendly lawyer, as they used to think.

Now, the detainees are told that they do not have to talk to the ICE agents, and they have to sign a consent form before they go to an ICE interview.

But ICE is still at Rikers and is still putting detainers on about 3,000 Rikers detainees per year.

What else can we do?

We can persuade the Mayor to tell ICE that NYC is no longer willing to allow ICE at Rikers.

Federal law says that immigration laws must be enforced by federal agents – not local law enforcement agents like police or local jail officials – UNLESS those local officials agree to enforce the federal laws. Under this legal principle, cities should not have to agree to identify immigrants for ICE or to accept detainers that ICE puts on some immigrants.

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