Hundreds of people gathered at City Hall park on Tuesday to protest against New York state's relationship with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services signed a memorandum of understanding with ICE last May, as part of a national initiative called "Secure Communities," which allows the two groups to share information about arrested individuals. The goal of the program, according to ICE, is to identify and remove undocumented criminals from the U.S. through deportation and to thereby "improve public safety." New York state signed the memorandum, but it has yet to be implemented.
Make the Road New York, one of the organizers of the rally against the program, said that innocent people are being deported as a result.
"This is not about convicted felons," said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. "In most instances it's about innocent New Yorkers or New Yorkers who are guilty of very minor things. This is not about public safety."
The group of protestors marched across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to City Hall Park and stopped at a small stage complete with a mariachi band. Speakers told their stories of how the program has affected them.
One protester, Jorgelina Aguirre, whose son is currently in jail on Riker's Island says her son was harrased and beaten up in Brooklyn and was later arrested for the beating. As a result of Secure Communities, Aguirre says an immigration hold has been placed on him. If he is found innocent, she fears Immigration officers will be waiting to take him away.
Councilman Daniel Dromm of District 25 in Queens and other council members around the city have asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to end the city's voluntary relationship with the federal ICE, saying it is tearing families apart.
"What we're doing is we are forcing the immigrant community to be distrustful of the police department rather than trustful of the police department," Dromm said at the rally, "and Secure Communities makes insecure communities for those reasons."
The Mayor's office has not returned call for comment.