New York’s immigrant communities are reeling from the over 40 arrests of undocumented immigrants that occurred across the city this month as part of a nationwide deportation drive. But the legal fate of these immigrants, once swept into ICE custody, is unknown; many may be detained for weeks or months as their cases wend through federal deportation proceedings. And the White House has widened the net to potentially ensnare more people with minor criminal histories, under the pretext of enforcing “public security.”
In the wake of these raids, New York City authorities have proudly declared themselves a “sanctuary city” in defiance of the Trump administration. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the City will maintain its sanctuary procedures under Trump. But the City’s protections are simply a general policy of municipal agencies’ and officials’ not proactively cooperating with ICE’s enforcement actions; ICE can still conduct operations using facilities and agents directly under Homeland Security’s control.
This supposed urban sanctuary therefore regularly disappears its migrants into a legal no-man’s land just outside city limits. A new report shows that, in detention, residents facing deportation are stripped of their rights and denied basic health care in the name of “security.”
The report by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) recounts nearly 50 cases of detainees’ facing deportation from 2014 to 2015 in ICE-contracted, publicly run jails in Orange County in New York, and Hudson and Bergen counties in New Jersey. These facilities regularly absorb immigrants from New York City and surrounding areas apprehended by federal authorities. The rights abuses described in the report reflect patterns of health-care mismanagement across the ICE detention system nationally. Immigrant detainees in deportation proceedings, researchers say, suffered “devastating health consequences such as emergency surgery, delayed cancer diagnoses and worsening conditions of treatable diseases and pain.”
One interviewee who suffered a chronic heart condition, identified in the report as Mr. Ahmed, said ICE repeatedly ignored his requests for assistance with a problem with his pacemaker, until he had to resort to emergency surgery to replace the pacemaker battery. “When I was detained I thought at some point I would be dead. They think we are animals and we just have to accept whatever they say,” he recalled.