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Velazquez Seeks to Block Immigration Feds from Identifying as Local Police

Velázquez Seeks to Block Immigration Feds from Identifying as Local Police
April 6, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC - With tensions escalating between immigrant communities and federal immigration enforcement agencies, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced a bill to prohibit immigration officers from wearing any clothing bearing the word “police”. This bill would apply to entities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). With images and video circulating of ICE agents identifying as police while conducting raids, the bill has the potential to make law enforcement safer and more transparent by prohibiting a widely used, deceptive practice. 

“Not only are ICE raids an unconscionable attack on our most vulnerable communities, any attempt by immigration officers to deceivingly pose as local police ought to be prohibited,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “After holding various ‘Know Your Rights’ workshops in my district, I’ve heard firsthand from families who fear reporting crime or engaging with the police due to the potential of getting caught up with immigration agents. This only makes our communities less safe.”

Due to the Trump Administration’s emphasis on targeting undocumented immigrants and changes in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) detainment and deportation policies, immigrant communities are living in heightened fear of deportation and detention. By visibly identifying with the word “police”, immigration officers compromise the public’s ability to distinguish between local and federal officers.

The bill has garnered strong support from prominent immigrant rights and advocacy groups. 

“We applaud this proposal to prevent ICE from using the word ‘police’ on their agents’ vests. For years, ICE has tried to confuse and scare community members by making people believe they are police officers, often trying to force their way into families’ homes without a warrant signed by a judge,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “Having the word ‘police’ on their vests is a central part of that strategy to enter people’s homes without warrants to tear families apart. Not only does this lead to the violation of people’s rights and family separation—it also makes everyone less safe, as it reduces trust in local law enforcement when people think that the police are immigration agents.”

“Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) has monitored ICE raids for years and applauds Congresswoman Velázquez for authoring this critical legislation,” said Mizue Aizeki, Deputy Director, Immigrant Defense Project. “It will help mitigate the abuses related to ICE's widespread tactic of presenting as local police to enter homes without judicial warrants or set up meetings with individuals only to detain them. In IDP's Defend Against ICE Raids & Community Arrests toolkit, created with the Center for Constitutional Rights, we outline how these frequently used 'ruses' weaken trust between vulnerable people and local police; traumatize children, partners, and others who unwittingly turn their loved ones over for deportation; and ultimately, make communities less safe as people are driven away from our justice system. We encourage her colleagues in Congress to champion it.” 

Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, “There is a chilling effect on the ability of immigrant communities to build trust and call on local law enforcement for help when federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers interchangeably identify themselves as "police" or ICE. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) strongly supports Congresswoman Velázquez's legislative solution to assure immigrant communities that they are actually engaging with local law enforcement and remove the fear of being profiled or deported.”

“The ability of an ICE or CBP agent to pose as local police officers is a flaw in our system and that’s why I’ve introduced this bill. Instead of keeping our communities safe, this practice fuels fear, undermines trust and ultimately further marginalizes our immigrant neighbors,” added Velázquez. 

This bill has been co-sponsored by Reps. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Marc Veasey (D-TX), James McGovern (D-MA), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Norma J. Torres (D-CA), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Jose E. Serrano (D-NY). 

The bill has been endorsed by Church World Service, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Make the Road New York, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), New York Communities for Change, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Educational Alliance, Hamilton-Madison House, Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC, Asian American Federation, Grand Street Settlement, New York Immigration Coalition, Fujian Consolidated Benevolent Association USA, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, United Mei Hua Alliance Gross Association, Fujian Association in USA, Central American Legal Assistance, Los Sures Social Services, Career Mobility Partnership, formerly known as Chinatown Manpower Project, CMP, Council of Peoples Organization, Center for Popular Democracy, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), MinKwon Center for Community Action, University Settlement, OCA-NY and Asian Pacific American Advocates.

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