Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has called on the Caribbean community in the United States to strongly oppose the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“The way in which this administration is terrorizing the immigrant community, we need to speak up,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in delivering the keynote address at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Brooklyn-based Progressive Democrats Political Association (PDPA), headed by Clarke’s mother, Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to be ever elected to New York City Council.
“Tearing families apart is not what this country is about,” added the congresswoman, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “We need to speak up.”
Clarke told the Silver Jubilee gala event at Tropical Paradise Ballroom in Brooklyn that an unidentified “panic person” had called her over the weekend, stating that a relative was being “shipped to Georgia.”
But Clarke said that, by the time she was able to reach officials at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the immigrant was “already on a plane,” being deported to his native Trinidad and Tobago.
“If we don’t stand up and speak out, our families will be torn apart,” the congresswoman warned. “Is that the United States we need? We need to get on Twitter, we need to get on Facebook, we need to fight back.
“My job is to get him [President Trump] out of office as soon as possible,” she said to loud applause. “Impeachment is on the way.”
Last month, Clarke condemned Trump’s revised executive order barring entry to the US for the predominantly Muslims nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
She said the revised Muslim ban “remains as unconstitutional – and unwise – as its predecessor,” claiming that Trump’s “basic philosophy of divide-and-conquer attempts to deny the promise of America to people across the world based on their practice on religion.”
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, who also spoke at the Silver Jubilee celebration, expressed concern about stepped up efforts by the Trump administration to deport Caribbean and other immigrants.
“I see the fear,” said Gonzalez, who was born in Puerto Rico and resides in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. “People rightly fear ICE agents coming to court.
“My office will do anything to protect immigrants,” he added, disclosing that he is currently recruiting a number of immigration attorneys to “make sure there are no deportation issues.
“What we’re concerned about is fairness, about justice,” Gonzalez said.
Besides Gonzalez, a number of New York City officials and immigration advocates have reported that they are seeing and hearing about an increasing number of ICE agents in courtroom, waiting to deport immigrants who might have fallen afoul of the law.
When, for example, Nevisian Floyel Stapleton appeared recently in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York for a routine hearing in his misdemeanor assault case, he was stunned to be met by US federal immigration agents as he left the courtroom.
“I didn’t know they were there. They were in plain clothes. They had no badges, and they arrested me when I was walking out of the courtroom. They just asked my name and they arrested me,” Stapleton, 39, told the New York Daily News from an immigration detention center in Hudson County, New York.
“They are trying to deport me,” Stapleton added. “The situation sucks.”
Stapleton’s arrest on Feb. 21 by ICE agents comes amid a growing debate about whether immigration agents should be allowed in New York City’s 31 courthouses at all, the Daily News said.
The paper said US President Donald J. Trump has promised a surge in immigration enforcement, creating an atmosphere of fear among many of New York’s immigrant communities that extends to the courtroom.
The New York Office of Court Administration (OCA) has confirmed only two arrests by ICE in city courthouses since mid-February, according to the Daily News.
It said ICE agents have also been spotted in court on three other occasions, inquiring about certain defendants or lingering in arraignments.
“The chief administrative judge and other senior court administration officials are closely monitoring the appearance of ICE agents in our court facilities,” OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said, noting the small number of “verified” ICE appearances.
“Since we began monitoring the situation, we have verified five interactions with defendants in New York City court facilities, resulting in two arrests,” he added.
New York City laws forbid the New York Department of Correction from complying with ICE “detainer orders” pertaining to inmates held on many less serious offenses, said the Daily News, adding that the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is crafting legislation to ban ICE from city courts.
“The presence of ICE in the City’s courthouses is deeply disruptive to court operations and our criminal justice system,” Mark-Viverito spokeswoman Robin Levine said.
Rosemary Boeglin, a spokeswoman for New York City Mayor de Blasio, said courts must be neutral and assure “equal access to justice.”
“Enforcement activity that might discourage victims from coming forward, or even defendants from showing up for their court date, could undermine public safety for all of us,” she said.
But even as legislators and immigrant advocacy groups express outrage over the Trump administration’s immigration policies, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the expansion and modernization of a program to deport immigrants, including Caribbean nationals, in US federal correctional facilities.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), announced by Sessions last Thursday, identifies removable criminal immigrants who are inmates in federal correctional facilities.
“Bringing an immigration judge to the inmate for a determination of removability, rather than vice versa, saves time and resources and speeds hearings,” the DOJ said, stating that the program is coordinated by its Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and ICE.
One of Trump’s first executive orders promised a weekly recounting of the crimes committed by undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants and a list of the recalcitrant local law enforcement departments that failed to turn those people over to US federal officials, according to the New York Times.
Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security delivered the first report.
But rather than provide a complete tally, it contained misleading information that only prompted confusion and defiance from law enforcement officials from the jurisdictions in question, the New York Times said.
The report, which covers Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, shows that ICE, the agency charged with deportations, issued 3,083 detainers, which are requests to local police departments to hold undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents who could be deported.
The report showed, however, that only 206 of those detainers were declined by local law enforcement agencies.
Nevertheless, ICE officials say the lack of cooperation endangers Americans, according to the Times.