New York Court Finds Local Police Can't Make Immigration Arrests
An appellate court in Brooklyn ruled Wednesday that local police officers in New York state can't arrest immigrants solely to turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a judicial warrant.
The case involved Susai Francis, an Indian national living on Long Island who overstayed a visa in the 1990s. After an arrest in Nassau County in June, 2017, for driving under the influence, he was transferred to Suffolk County to complete a different proceeding there involving a criminal charge. In December, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentence to time served.
But instead of letting him leave court, Suffolk police rearrested him at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was taken to a jail cell in Riverhead rented by ICE.
On Wednesday, a three-judge appellate court panel found this violated state law because the Suffolk police went beyond their authority. ICE detainers ask police to hold someone already in custody for 48 hours, to facilitate a transfer. By putting Francis back in jail, the court found Suffolk went too far. The ruling said, "local law enforcement officers are not authorized to effectuate arrests for civil law immigration violations."
The court found they could, however, if ICE showed them a warrant signed by a judge.
The case was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn said the ruling set a precedent because it applies to all local police, statewide.
"No York York state law enforcement official has any authority to arrest and detain an immigrant to deliver to ICE merely upon the request of ICE," he said. "That practice has to end not only in Suffolk County but in Nassau County and all around the state."
He estimated that hundreds of immigrants have been arrested this way in Suffolk in the past year.
New York City does not honor requests from ICE to detain immigrants for 48 hours if they're in jail or police custody, unless they've been convicted of a serious crime or there's a judicial warrant. Detainer requests shot up in New York City last year but .
According to Suffolk County began letting police arrest and detain people for ICE under the previous sheriff, after President Trump was elected, but the current sheriff announced he would end the policy after the ruling on Wednesday.
The ruling does not affect Francis, who is in now in ICE detention in New Jersey.
Unpacking Amazon's Incentives in New York
You've heard the big news: Amazon is coming to Queens, opening a new office for an estimated 25,000 workers in Long Island City.
And in return for doing that, New York State and state have promised some serious subsidies and incentives to the company: as much as $3 billion. But what does that money get the city? And what strings are attached?
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said taxpayers will get a nine-to-one return on investment in the deal.
But David Friedfel, Director of State Studies at the , told Jami Floyd it's quite hard to make that kind of estimate at this point in the project.
"I'm always trepidatious when I hear numbers regarding return on investment, certainly when they're calculated at this early stage," he said on All Things Considered. "To use them as a justification for spending billions of dollars — it adds additional layers of things to think about."
He spoke with WNYC about what we know of the details of the money involved in the Amazon deal in New York. To hear the full interview, click "Listen."
As Homeless Students Spread Across NYC, Support Is Stretched Thin
In the 19 years that Mary has lived in Astoria, Queens, she has seen luxury condos replace squat apartments at a steady pace. The gentrification reached her doorstep last summer when she was evicted. That was the moment when Mary and her two children found themselves homeless, joining the record number of people seeking services from the New York City homeless shelter system.
Even more than housing, Mary said she worried about her children losing the stability and community of their schools. Her son has autism, and attended a special-education program that was good for him.
“My daughter would have adjusted to another school, but not Vinnie,” Mary said. “If you have any special-needs child, to keep them in what they’re comfortable in, their routines, especially when you’re dealing with anything on the autism spectrum, it’s really important.”
But her concern was not unique: given the changing patterns of homelessness in the city, advocates told WNYC many families felt as though they had to choose between a new school and a long commute.
With a record-high in neighborhoods beyond the historic centers of homelessness — and homeless shelters — in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn.
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has responded with several programs, a “borough by borough, neighborhood by neighborhood approach” to shelter placements. According to the Department of Homeless Services, 73 percent of families for whom domestic violence was not a consideration were placed in shelters in the boroughs where their youngest child attends school.
But that didn't happen for Mary and her family. She was offered a temporary housing placement in Harlem, more than an hour away from her children's schools in Queens.
When city agencies transferred two hundred homeless families this summer to shelters closer to where they lived before, Mary's family wasn’t one of them. Eager to move before schools opened, Mary asked the supervisor at the Harlem shelter to transfer her to another family site operated by the same organization in Astoria.
A few weeks later, she and her family were back in the community they knew best.
Education officials told WNYC the issue of student homelessness was “a top priority.” Earlier this month, they unveiled a new initiative to place about 100 community coordinators in schools with the largest populations of homeless students.
“They’re going to have 100 percent of their time focused on the students in temporary housing and help connect them to resources, such as expanded learning time, mental health services, connections to food pantries, nutrition programs, and social workers,” said Chris Caruso, who heads the Community Schools program at the Department of Education. “These are the things that our students need to be successful, and we’re confident that we’ll be able to provide that for them.”
The coordinators will offer another line of support that extended beyond the nearly 70 social workers who the needs of homeless students in schools worst affected by housing instability.
One of those schools is P.S. 294 where one-third of the student population is homeless, and many more were teetering on the brink.
“All of the smart hard work that the teachers are doing can’t reach students that are worried about their mother being a victim of domestic violence, that are worried about their mother’s car being stolen,” said Principal Dan Russo. “They’re worried about the fact that they need to need to sneak a little bit of extra lunch in the cafeteria because there’s not food at home for dinner.”
In a school where so many were in flux, Russo said the work every day was focused on stability, including being relentless about student attendance.
“I’m not going to sit in my office and log 10 unanswered parent phone calls so that I can pull that log out some day and say we tried to call," he said emphatically. "I’m going to try twice, and if I can’t find you, I’m going to your house because the truth of the matter is, I need to see you, period. So that’s just it, you have to be tireless with the work. You have to be.”
Schools without such sizable populations of homeless students might not be as equipped to support them. And yet that’s where the rate of student homelessness is growing fastest.
Out of Reach
Christine Quinn, the former City Council Speaker, is the president and CEO of , the city’s largest shelter provider to families. She said she supported the mayor’s effort to keep families close to home but also worried about kids who stay in the same school but with very different circumstances.
“That school may have no awareness that that kid is now homeless, no awareness of that trauma," she said. "I’m sure they have the paperwork somewhere, but does each teacher really know?”
That’s something that Mary wondered as she walked her son to his bus stop one morning.
After he reluctantly boarded the bus, Mary said Vinnie was more anxious about school this year, and she worried he might be getting bullied for being homeless. When they first moved back to Queens, Mary said her children were excited about living in a shelter that was a converted motel. Now, she said, they don’t use the word “shelter” anymore.
Correction: This story originally reported the number of homeless students in New York City as 152,839. That figure includes all homeless students in New York State. It has been updated to reflect the number of homeless students in New York City only. The text was updated at 10am on November 14.
With More Lawyers for Tenants, City Says Evictions Are Dropping
On a typical weekday morning in Brooklyn housing court, there are lines of people just to get into a courtroom. People are pressed so close together you can hear tenants grousing about bedbugs and broken heating systems.
In the past, almost all of the attorneys here were representing landlords. But starting last year, New York City’s in 2022, costing $155 million annually by that time.
show the program is already working.
“We now see that in the first ZIP codes of the five-year phase-in, 56 percent of tenants now have representation in contrast to 1 percent of tenants citywide that had representation in 2013,” said New York City Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks.
And evictions declined by 27 percent in that time period, Banks said.
Those changes weren't solely propelled by the Right to Counsel law. The city already started piloting free lawyers for tenants in 2014, along with other anti-eviction services. It spent $77 million in the last fiscal year on those programs plus Right to Counsel.
In Brooklyn, Right to Counsel means tenants from the three eligible ZIP codes are routed to a sixth floor court room. If they make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, they're connected with lawyers.
Alfred Toussaint is a program manager with CAMBA legal services in Brooklyn, one of 20 legal service providers contracted through the Right to Counsel. Toussaint said rent-stabilized tenants often get into trouble when landlords take them to housing court.
“They tend not to know all the laws and the rights that they have in these particular apartments,” he explained. “So they enter into agreements that otherwise they would not have entered into if they knew the defenses that are available to them.”
One of his clients, who didn’t want to give her name because she feared retaliation by her landlord, said CAMBA enabled her to keep her apartment after she fell behind on her rent in May. She said she lost her job as a home healthcare aid when she got sick.
“There’s a lot of legal things I’m learning from them,” she said, of CAMBA. Touissant explained that his organization helped her apply for public assistance and a city program that would cover part of her rent.
But legal representation takes time. Attorney Jeff Hulbert works with many building owners in the Bronx neighborhoods with free attorneys. When tenants get lawyers, he said, things slow down.
“With the tenants coming to court saying they need to speak to an attorney, it gets adjourned,” he explained. “The attorney comes back to court, says I have to speak to my client, it gets adjourned. Third time it’s, you know, I can’t settle it we have to pick a trial date, it’s adjourned again.”
By then, he said, a landlord can spend 90 days or more without getting the rent. He suggests speeding things along by assigning a lawyer before the tenant’s first day in court.
Jean Schneider, the chief judge in charge of New York City’s housing court, agreed there’s room for improvement. But overall she said, she loves the new law. "Having a lawyer on both sides makes the court fairer," she said
And she believes cases are taking longer in many cases because problems are being addressed.
“The tenant lawyers that are being paid for by the city are raising issues, like whether the rent that’s been sued for is the legal rent or not,” she noted. “Whether there’s an overcharge involved.”
Schneider acknowledged lawyers are filing 15 percent more motions in housing court before a case is resolved. But she said they’re filing 15 percent fewer motions afterwards . She suggests that's because attorneys for landlords and tenants worked out a deal that spares everyone the need to return to court. "They know what to expect," she surmised.
But a year after Right to Counsel went into effect, advocates argue it still leaves out too many needy people. They note that tenants making minimum wage aren’t eligible for free lawyers because they’re considered above the income threshold.
Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson and Councilman Mark Levine of Upper Manhattan recently introduced a Right to Counsel 2.0 that would raise the income threshold to $48,000 a year for a single person and twice that amount for a family of four. The cost of the plan has yet to be evaluated.
Gibson acknowledged it won’t be an easy lift, because the courts are so busy and the current law is rolling out over five years in order to hire enough lawyers for every neighborhood and avoid putting too much of a burden on the courts.
“I recognize the hardship the city has faced in trying to implement this, it has not been easy,” she said.
But added the Bronx and Brooklyn housing courts are supposed to move to bigger facilities. She also said the new law would include non-eviction cases and appeals, while providing more outreach to tenants so they can connect with lawyers earlier, as landlords prefer.
Regardless of how the proposal proceeds, Right to Counsel is expanding as scheduled. Five more ZIP codes were added this week.