New York City Council Committee on Immigration
October 15, 2014 Hearing
Anti-Violence Advocates Against Deportation Testimony in support of
Anti-Violence Advocates Against Deportation
My name is Juana Peralta from the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. I am reading the statement of the Anti-Violence Advocates Coalition Against Deportation which is based on our letter attached, signed by 15 organizations.
We are advocates for survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence, family violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, other forms of gender-based, homophobic and transphobic violence, and discrimination against individuals living with HIV. In 2011, when we learned of the potential activation of ICE’s Secure Communities program, we came together to call for an end to New York’s collaboration with ICE.
We appreciate your leadership on protecting immigrants’ rights in New York. The new detainer bill is a big step forward towards protecting all immigrants from the damaging effects of ICE’s deportation machine. Any cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement not only makes our work more challenging but actually further victimizes and endangers a survivor on the road to safety.
By refusing to honor detainers, the City has taken a stand against the government’s devastating justification for mass deportation—that targeting immigrants with convictions and enlisting the police in this process promotes public safety. Through our work, we know that survivors are often the very people the government seeks to deport because they too have criminal histories. Our clients have a range of criminal convictions including felony assault, criminal contempt and serious drug-related convictions, to name a few. Batterers often threaten immigrant survivors with arrest and deportation and are adept at using the criminal legal system as a tool to reinforce their power and control. These convictions do not always appear to be related to the dynamics of abuse. Once enmeshed in the deportation process, survivors are often unable to access social service support and find the road to obtaining immigration relief such as U or T nonimmigrant status even more difficult.
The merger of policing practices with a rigid and extremely harsh immigration system has undermined our work on both policing and immigration, and our efforts to protect our communities. It has perpetuated rather than promoted violence. For example:
- Sexual assault, human trafficking, and family, intimate partner, homophobic and transphobic violence are already underreported crimes. Survivors are acutely aware of the risk of deportation when calling police, and ICE/police collaboration pushes survivors deeper into the shadows.
- In New York, as in many other states, victims of intimate partner violence can risk arrest when they call the police either because they have had to defend themselves from abuse, or because an inability to speak English results in an arrest. We routinely hear reports of survivors who are not provided with interpretation when making the difficult and often dangerous decision to contact law enforcement, and then are improperly arrested for being unable to report their victimization and end up with ICE hold requests shortly after arrest. Put simply, ICE/police collaboration adds teeth to a batterer’s threat of getting them deported and taking their children away and places survivors at increased risk of deportation.
- The severity of intimate partner violence in LGBTQH communities has increased while there has been a marked decrease in the willingness of LGBTQH survivors to reach out to local law enforcement for assistance. LGBTQH individuals still face enormous obstacles in obtaining competent assistance from local law enforcement and in seeking orders of protection now available to them through the 2008 New York Access to Family Court Bill. LGBTQH immigrants are at increased risk for negative encounters with local law enforcement in our state and elsewhere because of police profiling, selective enforcement, and discrimination.
- A trafficking survivor is more often than not arrested while a trafficker remains at large, signaling the shortcomings of local law enforcement in meaningfully identifying and protecting them. These arrests often trigger the mandatory detention of the trafficking survivor who, like other victims of violence, faces an uphill battle in securing adequate legal representation and navigating a deportation system that offers few options and is fraught with due process violations. In our experience, S-Comm and ICE presence in the jails actually thwarts the extensive statutory framework we have developed in New York to protect trafficking survivors.
Even if the criminal charges against survivors are eventually dismissed, we have seen firsthand how ICE’s ability to identify immigrants through the booking process (S-Comm) has increased the likelihood that they will face deportation, detention, and indefinite separation from their children, families, and communities. For this reason, it is essential that we continue to fight to end ICE’s info-sharing programs, even where felonies are concerned. Attached please find stories of survivors who have been adversely impacted because of S-Comm and ICE at Riker’s.
Again, we applaud the City for taking significant measures to minimize ICE’s presence in our criminal legal system—we are relieved to be able to advise our clients and community members that in the vast majority of cases, they no longer face the risk of the City transferring them to ICE detention. By refusing to honor detainers and eliminating ICE’s presence at Rikers, New York has taken a strong stand to weaken ICE’s grip on our City. We thank you and your colleagues for your serious attention to our communities’ concerns and your commitment to meaningfully expanding the rights of New Yorkers.