Ending Police Collaboration with Mass Deportation Programs: PEP, ICE Out of Rikers, and Ending S-Comm

IDP has worked on campaigns since 2008 to disentangle ICE from the criminal legal system. We started by fighting the ICE Criminal Alien Program in Rikers and then joined the ICE Out of Rikers Campaign on legislation to limit New York City’s honoring of ICE detainers. In 2010, we formed a coalition to stop ICE’s Secure Communities program in New York. In 2014, New York City passed groundbreaking detainer legislation, drastically limiting the City’s collaboration with ICE detainers. IDP continues to work with the Campaign to stop the implementation of ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program in NYC and nationally.

Ending the Priority Enforcement Program

In November 2014, the Obama Administration announced its Priority Enforcement Program (PEP-Comm), a revamped version of its mass deportation program Secure Communities. This shift came in part due to sustained advocacy across the country. IDP has been working closely with our local and national partners to monitor the roll out PEP-Comm, DHS’ latest mass deportation program. We are currently developing appropriate strategies and sharing information and tactics with advocates across the country including a toolkit and a practice advisory for NYC detainer law. IDP has aso developed letter templates for public defender offices to invoke the rights of noncitizen clients in local jails and with DHS with respect to uncounseled ICE interviews in the jails.

ICE Out of Rikers Campaign

On October 22, 2014, the New York City Council passed groundbreaking legislation dramatically limiting the circumstances under which the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) and the City of New York Department of Correction (“DOC”) are permitted to honor a detainer issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) — that is, hold an individual in custody for pickup by ICE officers — or otherwise cooperate with federal mass deportation programs. This legislation was the product of more than five years of advocacy from the ICE out of Rikers Coalition, a group of immigrants’ rights and criminal justice organizations and advocates dedicated to ending NYC’s participation in ICE’s deportation dragnet. The coalition, spearheaded by Make the Road New York, included the Immigrant Defense Project, Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law, New Sanctuary Movement NYC, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, numerous NYC public defender offices, and other allies. IDP and Cardozo School of Law created an advisory, which includes details about the legislation and the impact of the Obama Administration’s 2014 decision to replace S-Comm with the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP).

Per the 2014 detainer law, ICE’s office on Rikers Island was officially closed down on February 14, 2015. When ICE was a permanent presence at Rikers, IDP advocated that ICE officers must wear uniforms and that immigrants are given Form 144 (in English and Spanish), which we created for people in DOC custody explaining why ICE wants to interview them, what their rights are, and giving them the choice of whether they want to meet with ICE.

The coalition first came together in 2009. Two years later, the City passed its first detainer law setting limits on NYC DOC’s collaboration with ICE’s Criminal Alien Program housed at Rikers Island. In response to the activation of ICE’s Secure Communities program in 2012, the coalition worked to expand the detainer law to cover the NYPD and to offer greater protections against ICE-DOC collaboration (Local Laws 2013/021 and 2013/022). As part of these efforts, IDP also worked closely with anti-violence advocates (survivors of domestic, intimate partner and trafficking violence, LGBTQ people, and sex workers) to expose the widespread harm of the City’s collaboration with ICE.

Campaign to End “Secure Communities”

In 2010, IDP and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR), spearheaded a statewide campaign to end ICE’s “Secure Communities” mass deportation program. We formed a broad coalition known as the New York State Working Group Against Deportation, through which we created and disseminated written materials laying out our concerns and demands; conducted Know-Your-Rights and educational programs to raise awareness; organized public events to express our outrage and galvanize energy in opposition to this program; created messaging and engaged in media advocacy to help shape public opinion about this issue; and negotiated with public officials to stop the program in the state of New York.

In June 2011, we succeeded in getting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to suspend S-Comm in New York. In response to this victory and similar ones in other states, ICE terminated all statewide Memorandums of Understanding and activated the program mandatorily nationwide. In 2014, ICE renamed the Secure Communities to Priority Enforcement Program (see IDP’s work on PEP above). For materials developed in this campaign, visit resources.