By Victoria Merlino
Two Queens lawmakers have introduced a bill to monitor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in county jails and ensure fair treatment of detainees.
State Sen. John Liu and Assemblymember David Weprin introduced the ICE Oversight Act to ensure immigrants detained in New York county jails are treated in accordance with legal detention standards. The bill would also limit the expansion of immigration detention facilities.
“As residents of the nation’s gateway, New Yorkers know the value of immigration and understand that the vast majority of those emigrating to our country are doing so for a better life and to contribute to our great country." Weprin said in a statement. “We cannot continue to blindly comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency if it continues to violate the human rights of those seeking refuge in the United States.”
The legislation would stop municipalities from using funds to construct or expand any detention facility without the legislature’s approval, and would establish a committee on immigration detention oversight. The legislation is supported by Amnesty International.
"ICE continuously flouts the law, with little or no regard for basic human rights,” Liu said in a statement. “The state of New York can and must legislate with all its power to reduce efforts of this reckless agency to use public funds for construction or expansion of facilities, existing municipal buildings or other resources for their purposes of federal detention."
Though New York City does not contract with ICE to house detained immigrants, several of the 62 counties in the state accept money from the federal agency in exchange for placing ICE detainees in empty jail cells. Albany County charges ICE $119 per person per night, for example.
Deportations by ICE officers in New York City have increased by 150 percent from 2016 to 2018, according to a report by the New York City Comptroller’s Office. New deportation cases rose to an all-time high in 2018.