New York Council Hearing Reveals Deep Collusion Between Dept of Corrections and ICE

February 15, 2023

New York, NY- At a City Council hearing on Wednesday, the Immigration and Criminal Justice Committees heard hours of testimony from community members and advocates illustrating how the City has continued to funnel people into the hands of ICE and why we need to strengthen our local laws to protect immigrant New Yorkers. In questioning the Department of Corrections and other City officials, dozens of emails were cited that reveal extensive collusion in particular between the NYC Department of Corrections and ICE that are illegal under New York City Law. 

At the hearing– held to discuss three bills that would protect New Yorkers from ongoing collusion between the City and ICE and create accountability when the law is violated –  Councilmember and Immigration Committee Chair Shahana Hanif read excerpts from emails between DOC and ICE that show the agency has been flouting the city’s detainer laws and also actively facilitated courthouse arrests. 

Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) obtained the emails through a freedom of information law request that resulted in dozens of emails exchanged between 2015-2019.

The emails detail how DOC regularly illegally communicates with ICE about people even when NYC law clearly says that they cannot and delayed or slowed down the release of individuals otherwise ready to be released to provide additional time to facilitate ICE arrests. 

The language in the emails also illustrated a deep and shocking culture of collusion, a desire to facilitate the deportation of immigrant New Yorkers, and complete disregard for the rights of people they detain.

DOC signs an email to ICE asking them to pick up someone with “#teamsendthemback.” In another email,  DOC tells ICE they are urgently awaiting a detainer for someone and when ultimately the detainer is located, DOC informs ICE that “You are my BOO FOR REAL!!!!!!!!!!!

“Today’s hearing proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Department of Corrections has been illegally collaborating with ICE for years. The mounting evidence of unethical and illegal actions demand a top-down restructuring of DOC and underscore the urgent need to pass the legislation heard at today’s hearing,” said Immigration Committee Chair, Council Member Shahana Hanif. “For years, advocates have sounded the alarm on ongoing illegal collaboration between DOC and ICE, and today the evidence has overwhelmingly come to light. This Council must act swiftly to close the loopholes in our detainer laws and ensure anyone who ends up in ICE custody because of illegal actions on the part of DOC has a path to hold them accountable.” 

“For years, New Yorkers have fought to limit the City from conspiring with ICE, and it is unacceptable that the City continues to fuel the mass deportation machine. ICE terrorizes immigrant communities and families, and the agency has no place working with the City of New York,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Council Committee on Criminal Justice. “I commend the persistent advocacy of the ICE Out! NYC campaign, and could not be prouder to support this campaign’s goal to stop the Department of Correction and the NYPD from working with ICE in the detention and deportation of our immigrant communities.”

“New York has always been a city of immigrants, and everyone deserves the opportunity that our city promises,” said Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “The legislation we’ve introduced will ensure that city resources aren’t being used unfairly and unjustly to deport immigrant New Yorkers who are part of the fabric of our neighborhoods. The on-going communication between DOC and ICE that has come to light today is unacceptable and it illustrates clearly why we need to pass this legislation to ensure our detainer laws are upheld and local authorities do not become de facto extensions of a federal agency.” 

Advocates say the emails show that despite detainer laws in place, NYC continues to conspire with ICE to detain and deport community members. New York City urgently needs to pass three bills that will provide further protection to New Yorkers:

  • Intro 185: Limits communication between the NYC Department of Correction (DOC) and ICE
  • Intro 184: Limits the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) ability to hold people on immigration detainers.
  • Intro 158: Creates a way for immigrant New Yorkers harmed by violations of the detainer laws to seek justice.

IDP, BAJI, Bronx Defenders, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Make the Road New York, New York Immigration Coalition, New York Civil Liberties Union, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other community members in the ICE OUT NYC coalition are are urging the Council to vote to pass the bills and Mayor Adams to sign them into law.

The bills, once passed, will make our city welcoming to immigrants and keep communities together, safe, and stable.

“Many immigrant New Yorkers do not have the crucial freedom to move through their daily lives in peace — because they know, right now in New York, that ICE could be lurking around any corner,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “It is crucial as legislators at the state and city level that we do all we can to give immigrant families the safety of staying together — and that means strengthening existing detainer laws and ensuring that City agents and agencies do not enable ICE to brutally separate families. I’m proud to sponsor the NY4All bill on the State level, and to stand with the Councilmembers and ICE Out NYC Coalition in the fight to keep families together, and keep our communities safe.” 

“It has been more than 8 years since passage of local laws limiting the NYPD and Department of Corrections from working as extensions of ICE, and yet our city has fallen behind the national trend in stronger legislation to protect our immigrant communities,” said Yasmine Farhang, Director of Advocacy with the Immigrant Defense Project. “This administration simply cannot say out of one side of their mouth that this is a welcoming city for immigrant New Yorkers, while speaking with ICE out of the other side to funnel community members into their custody. We have proof in hand of collusion we have long known to be happening, and the time is now for NYC to step up as a leader and pass the 3 bills before the Council today.”

Daniel Lopez, member of Make the Road New York, said, “In 2020, I was arrested by ICE with the help of the police. ICE arrived at my house unannounced and when I saw people aggressively knocking on my door, I was scared, hid in my room and called the police. When the police arrived they told me to come out of my room to talk to them, and that no one was there, but when I came out they allowed ICE to detain me. This was extremely traumatic and a violation of my rights since there are laws that are supposed to protect me and that explicitly say that the police are not supposed to work with ICE. Today, I’m here to have my voice heard and ask the City Council to strengthen New York City’s detainer laws and pass legislation to stop collusion between ICE and the City.”

“As thousands of migrants look to New York City for a better future, we need to uphold our promise as a safe, welcoming city for immigrant communities,” said Zach Ahmad, Senior Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The New York City Council must welcome and defend our neighbors by addressing gaps in the city’s disentanglement laws – and put an end once and for all to the collusion between local government and ICE officers.”

“Asylum seekers and immigrant New Yorkers don’t need city agencies cosplaying as federal deportation officers, or doing the dirty work of ICE’s deportation machine,” said Rosa Cohen-Cruz, Immigration Policy Director at The Bronx Defenders. “New York City decided in 2014 that a welcoming immigrant City does not conspire with ICE. Yet since then, the NYPD and DOC have violated the law, not just by detaining New Yorkers without a signed warrant from a judge, but often communicating with ICE directly to initiate transfers. We need to ICE OUT! New York to stop this illegal and immoral police-to-deportation pipeline.”

“It’s abominable that, after years of getting hard-fought laws to protect our immigrant communities, the New York Police Department and Department of Corrections continue to illegally conspire with ICE to target and deport immigrant New Yorkers,” said Robert Willis, Justice Advocate Coordinator at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “It’s time to end this police-to-deportation pipeline. Immigrants are the cornerstone of our city and deserve to feel safe in the place they call home. We urge the New York City Council to end this illegal collaboration between the NYPD and the DoC.”

“The experience of our client Aleksy Raspoutny, who was unlawfully handed over to ICE by City agencies in September 2022, highlights the urgent necessity of the proposed bills,” said Meghna Philip, Special Litigation Attorney at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. “Their passage is vital to stopping New York City from being complicit in the surveillance and deportation of members of our communities. Without these necessary alterations, the rights conveyed by the current detainer law cannot be enforced, and a right that cannot be enforced is no right at all.”