By Stephen E. Lipken
Last month, an undocumented resident of Larchmont was attending a criminal court hearing at the Pelham Town Court in which one of the charges was not possessing a valid driver’s license. ICE agents appeared in court after obtaining the defendant’s PMPD fingerprint registry and made an attempt to detain him.
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, along with Congressman Eliot Engel, and the Westchester County Executive’s office held a protest rally in Gazebo Park on April 25th. They were joined by advocacy groups Hispanic Democrats of Westchester; New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC); Irvington Activists and New York Sanctuary as well as Progressive Women of Pelham.
Protestors chanted, “ICE Out of Courts,” calling on the State to pass the Protect Our Courts Act that would prevent ICE agents in New York courts as well as the Driver’s Licenses Access and Privacy Act to expand access to licenses for undocumented New Yorkers.
“By expanding access to driver’s licenses for undocumented New Yorkers and limiting ICE’s access to our courts, New York’s immigrant communities would no longer fear detention and deportation while traveling to work or showing up for court. If New York wants to be a pillar of justice in the wake of continuous federal attack against the immigrant community, we must pass legislation that protects immigrant residents and keeps New York families together,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
“It is very inspiring to see the communities here in Pelham and all over Westchester County coming together to stand against injustice, for immigrant rights that will move ICE out of Court unless they have a warrant for the person they are detaining and pass Green Light legislation, allowing drivers licenses regardless of their immigration status. They did have access to drivers licenses in 2002. This will fully make our roads safer with written and drivers tests, getting insurance and bring $57 million in revenue for the State the first year,” Vanessa Agudelo, Manager of Member Engagement, Hudson Valley NYIC stressed.
“The President’s willingness to permit ICE intimidation tactics is having a chilling effect on our community,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. “The U.S. is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants. Instead of working towards encouraging people to become citizens, the Administration has consistently sought to punish, or prevent them from coming. Stationing ICE agents outside of courthouses is a betrayal of our values. This is America—we should be focused on welcoming immigrants, not deporting them. I stand strongly against the actions taken by ICE agents in Pelham, New Rochelle, and across our community, and I call upon the Administration to cease ICE arrests at courthouses immediately.”
“Here in Westchester County we value and respect the law. We believe firmly that an administrative function should never override a judicial function. There are separate branches of government for a reason and we need to respect that. Westchester County is not a sanctuary county, but rather we are a community that follows laws. The County Jail has an obligation to hold people for court appearances, and that is what we do. We are not releasing them into “the public” – we are simply following laws by returning them to the local Police Departments and Courts that remanded them to us in the first place,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
Photos courtesy of Todd Cross (https://toddcrossphotos.pixieset.com/abpelham/)