Immigrant Rights Advocates Condemn Adams’s Attempts to Demonize Our Immigrant Communities

February 27, 2024

NEW YORK– The ICE Out NYC Coalition, a group of New York City immigrant rights organizations, today said Mayor Adams’s comments on rolling back the City’s sanctuary laws, which limit collusion between city agencies and federal immigration enforcement, are reckless, dangerous and unfairly vilify migrants for political gain. 

At a community event in Brooklyn on Monday, the mayor said “…we need to modify the sanctuary city law that if you commit a felony, a violent act, we should be able to turn you over to ICE and have you deported.” And at a press conference today, Mayor Adams indicated that he did not believe people suspected of engaging in criminal activity should be afforded due process protections.

This is just the latest of his incendiary comments on immigrants, which have been trumpeted by Donald Trump, other Republicans and across right-wing media, all of whom have been happy to target some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. In a recent incident, Curtis Sliwa orchestrated a racist vigilante attack for a television audience. 

For over 35 years, New York City has taken executive and legislative action to ensure we are living up to our values of being a welcoming city for all our immigrant communities. From Mayor Koch’s 1989 executive order declaring city agencies would generally not collude to funnel immigrant New Yorkers to the federal government, onwards our Mayors – both Democrat and Republican – have supported sanctuary policies and our City Council has worked to legislate our values into local law. In 2011, 2014 and 2017, the City passed additional bills to further limit collaboration between city agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target, detain and deport immigrant New Yorkers.  

In the early months of the Adams administration, New York City Council held a hearing on the detainer law in which it became apparent that city agents were willfully and intentionally violating the existing detainer laws, using anti immigrant rhetoric in their illegal communications with ICE.  These extremely disturbing revelations went without comment from the Mayor.  The Mayor’s inflammatory statements now will only encourage more anti-immigrant behavior from within his administration, and is part of his pattern and practice of trying to incarcerate and criminalize his way out of every social issue he confronts. This approach sends a clear message that the Mayor is intent on destroying the long held protections that have made New York a welcoming and safe city for all of us, immigrant and citizen New Yorkers.

The results of these bills have been transformative–making New York City safer and more equitable as everyone can participate in civic life regardless of immigration status. They enable survivors of violence to get help they need, workers to report wage theft or unsafe working conditions, renters to report dangerous conditions in their buildings, and community members to speak up and reach out to government agencies without fear of deportation.

We won’t allow Mayor Adams to create a dangerous climate of fear and target immigrant New Yorkers.

“Mayor Adams’ shameful threats to end New York’s years-long status as a sanctuary city will only result in the cruel targeting, demonization, and demoralization of our immigrant neighbors,” said Zachary Ahmad, Senior Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Claims that new arrivals, who have come to this country seeking safety and a fair shot, have driven a rise in crime are false. In fact, data shows there’s no crime wave at all. Instead of scapegoating those in need and manufacturing a fake threat, Mayor Adams should provide secure housing, supportive services, and legal assistance to our new neighbors. Immigrants are not props for theatrics that put their lives at risk.”

“Mayor Adams has disappointed New Yorkers by perpetuating a divisive narrative that discriminates against immigrants. His actions have made new arrivals feel as though they do not have the same rights to shelter as everyone else. Such behavior will not be tolerated. New York City, known as the Big Apple and a sanctuary city, embraces diversity. We are a city built by people of various races and backgrounds, and immigrants should have the right to shelter just like everyone else,” said Janay Cauthen, Executive Director of Families for Freedom

“Mayor Adams’ suggestion that the city reverse decades of hard-fought policies protecting immigrants from overzealous federal enforcement is reprehensible,” said Lourdes M. Rosado President and General Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “His narrative continues to feed and encourage suspicion and mistreatment of our newest New Yorkers looking to establish a new life. Multiple administrations, no matter their political orientation, have recognized that time and again, immigrants have built, rescued and improved our city, and that they deserve to live free of persecution and harassment. Cooperating with ICE and federal immigration enforcement authorities flies in the face of those traditions, and LatinoJustice will redouble its efforts to defend the rights of immigrants in New York and elsewhere.”

“This latest attack from the Adams administration against immigrant communities and families is also an attack on the very character of New York City. We know that our City is safer when all people are able to interact with law enforcement without fear of being detained and deported for unjust and unrelated reasons. Mayor Adams needs to listen to, and respect, the values and opinions of his constituents – the majority of which have affirmed their support of our city’s sanctuary policy.” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director at New York Immigration Coalition “We call on Mayor Adams to end his baseless attacks on immigrant communities and to begin implementing humane, common sense solutions that will make our communities safer and ensure every New Yorker can participate in civic life, regardless of their immigration status.” 

Luba Cortes, Immigrant Defense Coordinator at Make the Road New York, said, “It is infuriating to see Mayor Adams attempt to vilify immigrant communities and try to get rid of  policies that were instituted to help keep immigrant New Yorkers safe. New York City agencies should not collude with ICE, a federal agency with a horrifying track record of mistreating immigrants – denying them access to legal counsel, denying them freedom, and separating them from their families. Rolling back New York City’s sanctuary laws, and working with ICE will only bring harm and inflict pain to our communities.”

“Mayor Adams continues to push failed, archaic, and cruel criminalization policies that do nothing to make any of us safer,” said Nana Gyamfi, the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). “Our community members will not acquiesce to any effort to dust off policies that tear us away from our families and loved ones. BAJI continues to stand with our communities in demanding the dismantling of the police-to-deportation pipeline that deported over 80% of Black migrants facing deportation in 2022.”

The Mayor has now made it clear that he wants to gut our detainer laws to allow the City to unilaterally decide someone is a danger to society and exile people based on their place of birth and without due process protections,” said Rosa Cohen-Cruz, Director of Immigration Policy at The Bronx Defenders. “We have already seen City actors emboldened to violate immigrant rights using anti-immigrant rhetoric. This is not the first time the Mayor has attempted to upend long held, universal rights for New Yorkers through inflammatory comments about recent migrants. New Yorkers must reject his tired and hateful playbook. This is the moment to strengthen protections for immigrants, not use them as a political pawn to roll back critical safeguards for their rights and the rights of all New Yorkers.”

“For over 35 years, New York City has taken executive and legislative action to ensure we are living up to our values and telling our immigrant communities that this is a welcoming city for all,” said Yasmine Farhang, Director of Advocacy with the Immigrant Defense Project. “Collusion with ICE breaks this promise to New Yorkers and harms trust between community members and local agencies. And colluding with ICE based on arrests and convictions replicates the racism and inequality in the criminal legal system, perpetually punishing immigrant New Yorkers. We reject the Mayor’s shameful threats and we will hold the line on the policies and values that have shaped our city’s history.”