(The following letter was sent to Speaker Johnson and members of the City Council)
We are writing with serious concerns regarding the safety of New York City’s immigrant population, particularly the undocumented immigrant community. Legal experts and immigration advocates have expressed fears that Mayor de Blasio’s new Borough Based Jails (BBJs), sited within our communities, particularly communities of color in Chinatown and Mott Haven, will provide ICE officers with even more opportunities to track or detain undocumented immigrants who are either incarcerated in these new jails, entering or exiting court appearances, or visiting incarcerated friends or family members in these new jails. The public areas touted by the city for visitors and the new technologies, such as facial recognition, and the sharing of data are just a few factors that need to be addressed before you vote on the BBJs plan.
The number of immigrants detained by ICE in jails throughout the New York City area more than doubled since Donald Trump became president. Obviously, this stems from the anti-immigrant tone set by the Trump Administration, which has empowered ICE to increase use of shameful tactics that include close surveillance of individuals who happen to be near sites associated with the criminal justice system, such as courts and jails, including here in Chinatown.
If additional jails are built within the boroughs, there is no doubt that ICE surveillance around these locations will increase accordingly, putting not only the well-being of undocumented New Yorkers at risk, but also the emotional security of other immigrants, as well as the incarcerated and their families.
The BBJs plan has not been well-thought out, since its inception, and there remains many questions and unintended consequences. Without clear plans and safeguards in place, any benefits associated with housing incarcerated New Yorkers closer to their families will be negated by the fact that any undocumented family members visiting them will be more likely to be tracked or detained by ICE officials. In a city that claims to pride itself on being a place of sanctuary for undocumented individuals, this is unacceptable.
Mayor de Blasio has not laid out a clear plan to explain how undocumented New Yorkers will be adequately protected from ICE surveillance and detention under his BBJs proposal. And as far as we know, the City Council has not yet formally addressed this issue. This is why the Council must pause, declare that it will not approve the mayor’s proposal to build new jails and demand answers about how it will not make it easier for ICE to track or detain undocumented immigrants in New York City, and negatively impact our general immigrant population. We look forward to your response.
Boroughs United, Inc
Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association, HDFC