By Jonathan Sperling
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations have surged 150 percent citywide under President Donald Trump, with Queens residents accounting for about half of the total number of deportations, according to a report by City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
ICE activity has increased the city, including at courthouses in Queens and other counties, according to the report, published on Thursday. Overall ICE arrests in New York City increased 88 percent between the last year of President Obama’s tenure and the first two years of Trump’s term, marking the third-highest increase of any major U.S. city.
“Let’s be clear: undocumented New Yorkers are part of the fabric of our city. But even in a sanctuary city like New York, the escalation of ICE raids, arrests, and intimidation is terrorizing the everyday life of our neighbors and forcing undocumented New Yorkers into the shadows,” Stringer said in a statement. “These statistics are harrowing and they’re a call to action, because these just aren’t numbers – they’re sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, partners, neighbors, and friends.
Stringer also called on the city and state to protect undocumented New Yorkers by expanding access to immigrant legal services, and supporting immigrant bond services to ban ICE from all courthouses by way of the Protect Our Courts Act.
District attorneys from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx have all publicly called on ICE to stay out of their respective boroughs’ courthouses, while Queens DA Richard A. Brown and Staten Island DA Michael McMahon have not.
Queens has been the primary focus of ICE activity. The borough, home to more 1 million immigrants, accounted for half of the city’s immigration court proceedings, according to Stringer’s report.
An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but did issue the following statement:
“ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” the ICE spokesperson said. “However, ICE no longer exempts classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
“Please note that ICE officers in New York perform their lawful duties of enforcing the immigration laws of this nation with integrity and pride,” the spokesperson continued. “These men and women will continue to enforce the laws set forth by Congress as part of their civic duty, despite any criticism or political rhetoric. Further, those who choose to stay in the United States illegally are breaking the laws of this nation.”
Last year, Queens courthouses were a particular target for ICE, which made at least 33 reported arrests in and around the courts in 2018.
On Jan. 16, 2019, attorneys sent the Eagle photos of ICE agents arresting a man on the 82nd Street side of Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens. In November 2018, court officers and ICE agents teamed up to drag a man away from the steps of the courthouse.
An interactive map created by the Immigrant Defense Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights details 698 reported ICE raids and arrests that occurred in New York between Dec. 31, 2008 and June 27, 2018. At least 133 of the ICE arrests occurred in Queens, the map indicates.
Dozens of the ICE arrests included on the map occurred in and around the Queens Criminal Courthouse in Kew Gardens. Of those, 94 have taken place since Donald Trump took office and expanded immigration enforcement efforts in Jan. 2017. Earlier this month, a passerby recorded plainclothes ICE officers tackling and arresting a person as he walked toward the courthouse steps.
“I stand with Comptroller Stringer in demanding greater protections for families targeted by ICE under the cruel policies of the Trump Administration,” said Queens Assemblymember Catalina Cruz in a statement. “This reprehensible and unjust conduct, especially toward the East Asian, Latino, and African communities, cannot be tolerated in New York City. We must institute safeguards to protect our immigrants friends, neighbors, and constituents against the unconstitutional and dishonorable tactics of the federal government.”
Stringer’s investigation also found that deportations of people with no criminal convictions rose even more between Obama and Trump’s terms, from 313 to 1,144, or 265.5 percent — the largest rise of any ICE field office in the country.
Immigrants from China represent the largest group of immigrants in deportation proceedings, according to the report. More than 10,000 deportation proceedings — 21 percent of all cases — have involved Chinese immigrants since fiscal year 2016. Indian immigrants comprise approximately 10 percent of all cases, followed by immigrants from Guatemala and Ecuador at roughly 7 percent each.