NEW YORK, N.Y.—“My dad comes home from work with bruises and burns,” says 17-year-old Gisselle.
Her father, a restaurant worker, and her mother, a hotel cleaner, both came to the United States from the Mexican state of Puebla 18 years ago, before she was born. Because they’re undocumented, she says, they can’t complain about working conditions, and it would be hard for them to find other jobs.
Now, she told a rally of about 100 people in Foley Square May 11, they’re both facing deportation: They have to show an Immigration and Customs Enforcement judge why they should not be removed from this country.
“Where would my brother and I stay?” she asked.
The rally was organized by the New Sanctuary Coalition, a church-based group founded in 2007 to emulate the 1980s sanctuary movement, in which religious groups hid and housed refugees from the military dictatorships of Guatemala and El Salvador. The difference, the coalition says, is that it now wants to publicize the stories of deportable immigrants—many of whom have U.S.-born children—instead of hiding them, “to put a human face on the issues.”
“New York is not a sanctuary city,” said Agustina Perez, 27, whose mother was one of more than 200 people detained in ICE raids in the city April 14. She was released, but put under supervision, which means she has to check in periodically with ICE, and “doesn’t ensure that they’re not going to take her in.”
New York is not a sanctuary city, said Agustina Perez, 27, whose mother was one of more than 200 people detained in ICE raids in the city April 14.
Her fear is justified. Undocumented immigrants under supervision are often seized while checking in, and taken directly to detention centers in preparation for “removal.” Last September, Guatemalan refugee Eber Garcia-Vasquez, a Teamsters Local 813 member who had worked the same job for 26 years and whose wife and children were U.S. citizens, was deported a few weeks after he was seized during a check-in. Juan Vivares-Mazo, a 29-year-old Colombian immigrant also married to a U.S. citizen, had suffered a similar fate about five months earlier.
Perez’s mother crossed the border from Mexico more than 30 years ago with the aid of a “coyote” smuggler. Her father, a cook, came here as a child farmworker more than 40 years ago and stayed. He’s still undocumented even though “he’s spent his whole life here,” she told LaborPress.
She now works in the foster-care system, and counts herself fortunate that she and her brother are both over 21 and could take care of their 12-year-old sister if their parents were deported, instead of her being put into foster care.
It’s common for people detained to lose their jobs, says Steven Sacco, a volunteer lawyer for the New Sanctuary Coalition; sometimes they can’t call or text their employer to tell what happened to them. Those who are not detained are often required to wear GPS-tracking monitors about the size of a large 1990s cell phone—attached by ankle bracelets called “grilletes,” shackles, in Spanish—under the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. ICE hires BI Incorporated, a subsidiary of the GEO Group private-prison company, to run that program.
ICE has “discretion to use it any time someone is eligible for detention,” Sacco told LaborPress.
In a statement read at the rally, Francisco, a Guatemalan who brought his 15-year-old son here to escape gang violence, described how he sneaks into a corner of the restaurant where he works to change the battery in his monitor. If it goes dead, a loud alarm goes off.
Those who use private bail-bond companies to get out of detention often have to rent monitor bracelets until their case is resolved and they pay off the full bail-bond fee. One such company, the Virginia-based Libre by Nexus, charges them $14 a day, $420 a month, for the device.
The system is “confusing,” Sacco says, and people often believe they’re dealing with the government instead of a private company. Libre by Nexus is now under investigation by the states of New York, Virginia, and Washington, and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Washington Post reported last month.
“The more people are in fear and in the shadows, the more it suppresses wages,” Assemblymember Harvey Epstein told LaborPress before the rally. If they don’t feel like they have the power to complain about wage theft or harassment, he explained, “it hurts the entire labor market.”