Displaying items by tag: immigration
SARATOGA SPRINGS - During a targeted enforcement operation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested “eight unlawfully present adults” on Sept. 11 in Saratoga Springs, according to a statement issued by the federal agency.
The eight men, all citizens of Mexico, are between the ages of 20 and 49, and allegedly face administrative immigration violations. One of the men is suspected of illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously removed, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
Those arrested will be held in ICE custody at the Albany County Correctional Facility, pending transfer to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.
The agency also issued the following statement: “All recent enforcement operations in this region are a part of routine, daily targeted operations conducted by ICE here around the country every day, targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators. These efforts will continue.”
Deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations reported arresting 26 men in Saratoga Springs in May and June.
Challenging. Extremely nuanced. And very, very complicated.
The city’s recently formed Human Rights Task Force hosted a Town Hall at Skidmore College on a stormy Monday evening regarding the impact of immigration in Saratoga Springs. The moderated panel discussion included regional business owners, an attorney specializing in immigration employment matters relating and local and state community leaders and representatives.
The prevailing sentiment of the informational meeting – which was attended by about 175 people and included an audience Q&A session – is that even as Saratoga Springs strives to be “a welcoming and all-inclusive community,” there are limits to what the city can do regarding immigrant workers – both documented and undocumented - given that federal laws supersede local ones.
“What we have done is everything we can do,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “This is a federal agency. This is The White House. And we don’t have legal grounds.”
Earlier this year, the mayor founded a city Human Rights Task Force – which focuses mostly on education, programming such as Monday’s event, and providing referrals to local agencies that can assist in immigration issues. In March, city Police Chief Greg Veitch said while the department will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. if asked, local police will not detain anyone solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws.
In June, federal agents conducted two separate operations in Saratoga Springs, arresting a total of 26 “unlawfully present foreign nationals,” according to the agency.
In recent months, two city based churches stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation. I.C.E. typically operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as sensitive locations where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions. However, there are no guarantees.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law,” notes attorney Brendan Venter, an immigrant specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
More than 11 countries are represented on the backstretch said Task Force member Diane Barnes said Monday, adding that besides the racecourse, high-profile employers such as Skidmore College and Global Foundries also employ a good number of immigrants.
Panelist and local business owner Patrick Pipino spoke about the large immigrant work force in the food and restaurant business. “Good people. Hard working people. Why Saratoga? I think it’s easy to pick off people because we’re a high-profile community, and in my opinion there’s a new sheriff in town and he wants to show he’s tough on immigration.” Business owners are required to turn over employment records to federal authorities when asked and when they arrive with warrant in hand. Those detained are held locally in Albany for only a couple of days before being sent to federal detention in Buffalo, which makes timeliness of representation difficult where they can plead their case.
One resource available to anyone with immigration questions is at the New York State Office for New Americans, which is funded by Catholic Charities and offers resources in 200 different languages.
“First it will help refer you to an organization that will provide assistance on any immigrant-related questions. It’s all free and confidential,” New York Department of State’s Laura González-Murphy - who directs the New York State Office for New Americans - said Monday night. “We’re also going to be using that as a resource to connect with legal assistance, for an attorney.” The agency can be reached by phone at 1-800-566-7636. “People who know an immigrant can call, immigrants themselves can call. It’s for anyone who needs assistance,” she said.
“I think there is a humanitarian effort to this, because families are being broken apart in ways we haven’t seen before,” Yepsen said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following an ongoing investigation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 10 unlawfully present adult males and one unaccompanied alien minor Wednesday, in Saratoga Springs. The men - one Guatemalan national and nine Mexican nationals, who are between the ages of 20-49, currently face administrative immigration violations.
The arrests occurred without incident near multiple area residences. Three of the adult males are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation. All of the adult males are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility, according to a statement issued by ICE on Thursday.
The unaccompanied alien minor was served with a Notice to Appear in immigration court, and transferred to the Department Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for placement, consistent with ICE policy relating to minors.
Just over two weeks ago, special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A boombox sits on the sill next to a soccer ball. The board games Monopoly and Yahtzee await nearby. A pair of cots recline beneath a ceiling fan in the 500 square-foot room bookended by a quartet of glass windows that look out to the city’s east side.
Outdoors, beneath a sign heralding the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church (PNECC) is an announcement that reads: All Welcome. Upstairs, the Rev. Annie Reilly and Terry Diggory spend the afternoon re-purposing the room into a space where undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation may seek sanctuary.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the church to put its money where its mouth is,” Reilly says. “We talk about welcoming strangers. What better way than to welcome sanctuary seekers.”
Churches as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants were prevalent in the southwestern part of the country during the 1980s when Central American residents fleeing political repression and violence in their homeland sought asylum in the U.S. More recently, churches vowing to offer sanctuary to immigrants have begun to dot the national landscape, coast-to-coast.
In Saratoga Springs, two churches have stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation.
“We’re in the midst of an immigration crisis, and it’s not just a matter of region. People all over are affected,” says Diggory, who coordinates PNECC’s Welcoming Immigrants task force. “And this is not just immigrants but for the community as a whole, to encompass the spirit of ‘welcome’ and not just fear.”
The sanctuary policy was affirmed by the church Governing Board on June 5, joining with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs, who in April made a formal statement in support of sanctuary for immigrants.
“We’re excited the two churches are working together - partnering to support those of us under the threat of deportation, or who feel threatened by it – whether they’re here legally or not,” says the Rev. Joseph Cleveland, minister at UUC. “I hope it emboldens other congregations to take this step. These are people who are a part of our community - and I’m not talking about the track - people living here year-round, people who are now afraid to go to the doctor if they’re sick for fear of getting picked up.”
The two churches’ public commitment comes one week after special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations. Nine of those men are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation, or visa fraud.
The concept of “sanctuary,” as more commonly aligned in the context of sanctuary cities or sanctuary college campuses, is not a legal designation but is more an amorphous entity with no set definition or rules to follow, says Brendan Venter, associate attorney and immigration specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
“Sanctuary is a concept more than anything else that covers a range of different policies or guidelines that these entities can choose to follow, or not follow, on a case-by-case basis,” Venter says. “A college campus for example can label itself a sanctuary campus and institute policies that are protective of foreign nationals or individuals regardless of immigration status, but there is also a wide spectrum of policies they can implement.”
One such policy to be implemented at PNECC would be the refusal to hand over information about individuals’ immigration status to federal authorities without a warrant, or some legal compulsion to do so. “If an ICE agent showed up with a judicial warrant we would need to (honor that) warrant, but until you show that warrant we are not permitting contact with that person,” Diggory says.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law. Federal law still applies to them,” Venter says. “The concept of sanctuary more applies to how much that entity – whether it be a city, a town, a college campus, or a church is willing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities or enforce federal immigration law beyond what’s absolutely necessary or required of them.”
“We would accept a person in sanctuary only if that person has a good case for some sort of appeal to ICE authorities for administrative relief,” says Diggory, explaining that there can be a punitive lag in between the time a person in special circumstances can apply for a visa.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as “sensitive locations” where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions.
Should a person seek sanctuary, the church will not operate in secrecy, Diggory said. Rather the church is, and will remain, publicly forthcoming in order to raise public awareness of the immigration crisis. He knows there can be no guarantees, however. “Those guidelines are entirely up to ICE. If they decide not to follow those guidelines… we cannot say this is going to absolutely protect you from being taken into custody.”
“Traditionally places such as churches or courts have been places where ICE agents would not go to seek out, or detain people,” explains Venter. “But, if you read the news today, you’ll see all sorts of stories about people being picked up going to court dates, or at churches and other places of religious worship due to the heightened enforcement of all immigration laws we’ve seen over the past six months or so. “