First Stop, Rikers. Next Stop, Colombia?

José M. Serrano

July 29, 2010

City Limits

Published: Sunday, September 6, 2009

Click here to read this article on the City Limits website.

Following a wave of activism protesting interrogations of immigrant detainees at Rikers Island, the city Department of Correction has implemented new practices to better respect the rights of people who are held because they have been arrested and await trial. Like other pre-trial detainees, immigrants are presumed innocent of their charges, but if they are found to be undocumented while being held, it's a comparatively quick trip to deportation.

For months, immigrant advocates have been turning up the heat on the Department of Correction for allegedly allowing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to use Rikers Island city jail as a convenient place to crack down on illegal immigrants-even though detainees are not there because of their immigration status.

Organizations such as the New Sanctuary Coalition, an immigration policy reform group, argued that the practice often leads to their deportation and inability to receive a fair trial.

In response, DOC began last month to give detainees interview consent forms before they speak with ICE. The form gives the option to check one of three boxes before the interview, which is aimed at ascertaining if they are undocumented: wait to do it until a lawyer is present, conduct it without a lawyer, or skip the interview all together…

Now, an umbrella organization called East Harlem Against Deportation – and supporters like State Sen. Jose M. Serrano – is urging DOC, through a report, to further restrict ICE access to pre-trial detainees and to bar the sharing of fingerprint data with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security…