New York Daily News (Op-Ed)
By Yvette Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, and Letitia James
May 18, 2017
Since Donald Trump assumed control of the federal government’s executive branch, millions of Americans have become fearful that he will fulfill his pledge — repeated many times during last year’s campaign — to conduct mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Already, Trump has issued an executive order that all but eliminates Immigration and Customs Enforcement priorities that until then put serious criminals first in line for deportation actions. As a result, honest and hardworking people who came to America as children with their parents are now considered as much a priority for deportation as individuals with extremely serious criminal records.
Just the very act of entering the United States without authorization or staying here after the expiration of a visa is now being prosecuted as a crime that unjustly merits deportation.
We are prepared to lead the resistance to Trump’s immoral anti-immigrant policies. We are a city of immigrants within a nation of immigrants. About one-third of New York City residents were born outside the United States. Their contributions are vital to our civil society.
In our fight to resist policies put forth by the Trump administration, we must stand up for the rights of everyone living in the U.S., including immigrants, regardless of their status.
Those universal rights are particularly vulnerable during ICE raids and while individuals are initially in federal custody, when the decision to remain silent or to request an attorney could easily determine the outcome of the proceedings.
The two members of Congress among us are therefore proud to introduce bills to make sure that interactions between ICE agents and individuals being questioned, arrested or detained are recorded and preserved for the record .
The ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act and the ICE Body Camera Act would require immigration, customs and border patrol agents to wear and use body cameras during field operations, and make footage available for use in court. An accurate record of interactions with agents is imperative, all the more so in light of troubling reports suggesting that immigration agents sometimes use coercive methods to extract information .
For example, reports have surfaced on Staten Island alleging that ICE agents showed up at immigrants’ homes with a picture of a man, saying they needed help in finding someone who was supposedly dangerous, and that once the door opened ICE agents conducted an arrest. Also on Staten Island, ICE agents allegedly identified themselves as police at the door.
Now that Trump has dramatically ratcheted up deportations, many immigrants in New York City and across the United States fear a knock on the door in the middle of the night or checkpoints on their drive home from work.
Immigrants are right to be concerned about the possibility of abuse, particularly when individuals detained by ICE have severely limited access to attorneys and to the due process of law or may have limited English proficiency. It is critical that we establish procedures that protect their rights as they face the possibility of deportation.
In recent years, many U.S. law enforcement agencies have begun to require their officers to wear body cameras when conducting arrests or interacting with the community, in order to increase accountability and improve public trust. Of the 68 big-city departments in the U.S., 43 now operate body-worn camera programs.
This includes the NYPD, which, in large part due to the efforts of the public advocate, will have body cameras on all patrol officers by 2019.
The early results are promising: The Civilian Complaint Review Board found police misconduct was twice as likely to be substantiated when video footage is available. Having body camera evidence in cases like that of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, suing on allegations that six ICE agents slammed him on the floor after forcing entry into his Chicago home, would be useful.
We believe the federal government should make immigration enforcement as transparent as criminal law enforcement. Immigrants and their families are entitled to respect for their humanity and to the full rights guaranteed under the law.
James is New York City’s public advocate. Espaillat represents Manhattan and the Bronx and Clarke represents Brooklyn in Congress.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com