Last Friday, Pablo Villavicencio arrived at the United States Army Garrison Fort Hamilton in south Brooklyn to deliver a pizza. Hours later, Villavicencio was en route to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. Conflicting stories have emerged over what happened at the Army base. Here’s what we know so far:
On Friday afternoon, Villavicencio, traveled to the base to deliver an order of spaghetti to a sergeant. He flashed his city-issued IDNYC card to enter the base, but was ordered to provide more identification. The guard on duty told Villavicencio he needed to apply for Department of Defense identification which required a background check.
“Upon signing a waiver permitting a background check, Department of the Army Access Control standard for all visitors, an active Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrant was discovered on file,” the base told BuzzFeed news in a statement. “Commanders are authorized to take reasonably necessary and lawful measures to maintain law and order and protect installation personnel and property,” it continued.
Villavicencio provided a different account of that day. “A tall man with dark skin started to ask me many questions, he asked me about why I didn’t have any Social Security card,” Villavicencio told The NY Post by phone from immigration detention. “He called the NYPD and the NYPD told him I didn’t have any record, that I was clean. But the man said, ‘I don’t care.’ He said I need to keep waiting and he called ICE.” The guard wouldn’t accept the IDNYC card as proper ID, Villavicencio said.
Villavicencio also denies signing a waiver to allow a background check. “I didn’t sign anything. They never told me anything and I never signed anything,” he told the Post.
Several politicians held a press conference on Wednesday, where they denounced Villavicencio detention.
“Does the Army now have some new policy to show proof of citizenship to enter the base?” Councilman Justin Brannan told the crowd. He stressed how Villavicencio had been going in and out of the base for years without incident. He and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said it set a “dangerous precedent.”
On Thursday, A small group of advocates gathered at 201 Varick Street to protest his deportation. If he is deported, he will leave a wife and two daughters, all American citizens. NY Post, BuzzFeed News, Pix 11, Felipe De La Hoz for Documented
Juveniles denied special-immigrant status
Over the past year, immigrants in New York aged 18 to 20 have been routinely denied special immigrant juvenile status, which provides a green card to children who were neglected, abused or abandoned by a parent, according to a new lawsuit. On Thursday Legal Aid Society and corporate law firm Latham & Watkins filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court. They allege that about 3,000 young people with pending applications could be affected by an abrupt policy change: applications being denied at a higher rate. The Wall Street Journal.
De Blasio’s education plan draws ire of Chinese community leaders
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to reform the admissions practices to enter specialized high schools triggered protests from the city’s Chinese community on Tuesday. Hundreds of people gathered near City Hall to rally for the current test-based admission policy. The protest, which was organized by the Coalition of Asian Americans for Civil Rights, drew city politicians, community organizers and parents of high school students. One person attending told the chinese language paper Sing Tao Daily that Chinese immigrants heard about high schools like Stuyvesant while they were still in China, and came here to send their children to the schools. Sing Tao Daily via Voices of NY
City council moves to restrict street vending at Ground Zero
A new law was proposed by the city council on Thursday to grow the area around Ground Zero where street vending is forbidden. The law was introduced by council member Margaret Chin of District 1 and would expand the zone several blocks. The Street Vendor Project, a non-profit that aids food cart workers and street vendors, is staunchly opposed to the bill, saying it “reeks of islamophobia,” in a release. The text of the bill didn’t elaborate as to why the city council was expanding the no-vending zone. Documented
Man sentenced for killing Queens imam
On Thursday, Oscar Morel was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Queens based imam, Maulana Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64. They were shot to death during the summer of 2016 walking back from Al-Furqan Jame Masjid. After a three week trial, Morel was convicted for the killing, but a motive was never determined. The New York Times
Lawsuit challenges census citizenship question
The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and corporate law firm Arnold & Porter, filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday that challenges the Trump administration’s plan to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The groups allege that the question intentionally discriminates against immigrants and interferes with the government’s ability to accurately count population figures, a constitutional mandate. A citizenship question hasn’t been included with the U.S. census for 70 years. The addition of the question could sow fear in immigrant communities, which could impact participation, skewing results of the census and affecting federal funding, the civil rights organizations said in a release. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. Documented
Asylum is granted at a lower rate for children
Children who seek asylum are being granted that status at far lower rates this year than previous years, according to a WNYC report. In fiscal year 2018, 21 percent of kids who applied for asylum were granted it at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services New York office. WNYC’s Beth Fertig found this was a decline from 38 percent two years ago. USCIS’s New Jersey office asylum grant rates have fallen even further this fiscal year, from 70 percent in 2016 to 32 percent. WNYC
Family separation policy lawsuit moves forward
Trump’s family separation policy was dealt a blow on Wednesday in a federal court in San Diego. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the ACLU that argues that splitting families at the border violates their due process rights. “These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child,” the judge wrote. The government’s actions – if true – are “brutal, offensive, and [fail] to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” Bloomberg
ICE gathers data on child guardians
A new proposal by the Trump administration will make it more difficult for young migrants to connect with their relatives who live in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security rule allows immigration authorities to collect fingerprints and other information from the potential sponsors of the children and other people they may live with. Advocates worry it will force parents and relatives to abandon children for fear of possible deportation. Currently, when sponsors step forward, the Office of Refugee Resettlement runs a background check on the sponsors, which can include FBI fingerprint checks. The office has not been actively sharing that information with ICE, according to the NYCLU. THe new rule would directly involve ICE in the process, by allowing them to run immigration status checks on the potential guardians and the people they live with. NBC News
Oregon county DA lies about sharing information with ICE
“The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office does not notify or alert immigration officials or agencies regarding witnesses, victims or defendants with whom we come into contact,” Rod Underhill told his constituents in a statement in January 2017. The district attorney said he didn’t want to alienate immigrant communities from being able to report crimes in his area of jurisdiction, which includes Portland, Ore. Portland alt-weekly Willamette Week uncovered records from ICE that show that in-fact Underhill’s office does share information with the agency. “He is in [the Multnomah County Jail] now on warrants,” one prosecutor wrote to the local ICE office. “Happy hunting.” Willamette Week
Florida detention center hinders Ramadan celebrations
Immigration and civil rights lawyers are claiming that a South Florida detention center is preventing Muslim detainees from observing Ramadan. In a letter sent County Sheriff David Hardin, who runs the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Fla., advocates alleged that at least two men have been “arbitrarily denied” the ability to participate in the holiday. Others were denied halal food, denied access to the Koran and prevented from praying five times a day. The lawyers also say men who wear kufi hats have had them knocked off their heads. One man claims he was sent to solitary confinement for wearing the hat. Miami New Times
Family separation swells Texas criminal court
Before the family separation policy was enacted last month, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas saw 20 to 30 immigrants a day charged with immigration related crimes, according to an assistant federal public defender who works with the court. Now, the court sees around 150. This surge in activity is another result of the family separation policy: an overburdened criminal court system. USA Today
American Oversight filed a lawsuit against CBP over its “#CatchOfTheDay” hashtag to describe immigrants arrested near the border. The watchdog organization suspects it shows the hand of Trump administration.
Federal agents in Massachusetts have halted the controversial practice of arresting undocumented immigrants who are visiting government offices in hopes of gaining legal status, an immigration official told a federal judge Tuesday, The Boston Globe
The first person to serve jail time for a charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation was deported and arrived in the Netherlands, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said, CNN
- The Plight of Indian-American Immigrant Children, by Vikram Aditya Kumar, president and CEO of AVG and chairman of Republican Hindu Coalition. Real Clear Politics
- It’s a month to celebrate Caribbean immigrants, but who really cares? By Felicia Persaud, a writer at Hard Beat Communications, Inc.. The Amsterdam News
- Republican opposition to DREAMers is irrational and ridiculous. What the heck is their problem? By Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. USA Today
Washington – ICE to send 1,600 detainees to federal prisons
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has authorized the transfer of 1,600 detainees to federal prisons, according to Reuters.
As populations in ICE detention centers swell due to Trump administration policies, federal authorities are running out of place to house detainees. The solution they have settled them: send them to federal prisons.
ICE has long contracted county jails to house immigrant detainees, but housing them in federal prisons is a new practice. The prisons will take in detainees awaiting civil immigration court hearings, which includes asylum seekers,
One prison in Victorville, California is preparing to house 1,000 people. ICE is also moving detainees to prisons in Washington state, Oregon, Arizona and Texas. Union leaders at prisons in California, Texas and Washington state said they had little time to prepare for the large intake of detainees. The average daily population of detainees in its facilities in May was 41,134, an increase of over 2,000 from the average population in 2017.
The surge in the detainee population is due to a surge in illegal border crossings and the Trump administration’s recent zero-tolerance policy. Trump also ended the “catch and release,” policy, which allowed for more immigrants to leave detention while awaiting court hearings. In April 2018, nearly 51,000 people were apprehended at or near the southern border, up from about 16,000 a year prior.
The agreement between ICE and the Justice Department will last 120 days, as ICE scrambles to find space for detainees. Reuters
Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Thursday there was agreement within House Republicans that they would iron out a bill that addressed the ‘four pillars’ of immigration policy outlined by the White House. These ‘pillars’ include: a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, ending the diversity visa program, restricting family based immigration and securing the Southwest border. Ryan is attempting to circumvent a forced vote on immigration, a petition started by a contingent of the Republican party who has rebelled against the mainstream party line. As of Thursday morning, they need just three more signatures for the vote to happen. Two Texas Democrats who were critical of the position, recently signed on in order to force the vote. Ryan said he believed the negotiations on Thursday halted that petition. NPR, The Hill
Featured Image: Federal Plaza building. Photo: Christopher Lee for Documented.
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