In June of 2009 Ricardo Muñiz, an undocumented migrant from Mexico, was attacked by two men who shouted anti-gay and anti-immigrant slurs while beating him. Ricardo went to the local police precinct to report the attack. Days later, the police arrested Ricardo, accusing him of having committed an attack against his perpetrators. In August of 2009, Ricardo was taken into custody and sent to Riker’s Island, the infamous jail where people awaiting trial are sent.
The city filed six charges of assault against Ricardo. In addition to this, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put a hold on Ricardo because they thought they could remove him from the country. Ricardo waited for almost two years on Riker’s Island until he received a court date. During this time, he couldn’t receive a bail bond or get a lawyer to help him fight his case from the outside. It is critical to note that New York City shared Ricardo’s information with ICE, and that is why Ricardo was unable to access outside help.
On March 31, 2011, Ricardo was declared innocent. But his long nightmare did not end there. He had to go back to Riker’s Island because ICE had put a hold on him, and the city was now detaining him so ICE could take him into custody. Even though Ricardo was declared innocent, doesn’t have a criminal record, and is a victim of a hate crime, ICE wanted to deport him!
Thanks to the work of Make the Road New York (MRNY) and immigration lawyers, Ricardo is free at the moment, but must fight in court in order to stay in the country. Ricardo is not only a victim of a hate crime because of his sexual orientation, but a victim of our broken immigration system. Ricardo is not alone in his troubles. Thousands of people’s stories are represented by Ricardo’s story – many of them unjustly detained and deported to their countries of origin.
Currently ICE officials put thousands of people in deportation proceedings. Most of them are undocumented, not guilty of any crimes, and/or have committed only minor infractions. In response to this, MRNY launched a campaign to end the collaboration between the NYPD and ICE on Riker’s Island. Since November 2010, MRNY has organized a public speak out to demand a stop to the collaboration: the New York religious community has raised their concerns, and U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urged an end this collaboration. More recently, a letter written by co-Executive Director Andrew Friedman and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and published in the New York Times, detailed the problems caused by the collaboration between ICE and Riker’s Island.
Make the Road plans to continue working with community members who have been impacted by this issue. They will also work with authorities (including mayor Bloomberg) and the religious community to end the collaboration between NYPD and ICE, which continues to separate families as well as cost the City millions of unnecessary dollars.
This troublesome situation is not unique to New York — it is also reflective of our dysfunctional national immigration system. Also important to note is that while cities bleed resources keeping innocent people behind bars, corporations reap the profits of having people in jail. And, ironically, on top of all this, undocumented immigrants in this country are paying billions of dollars in taxes while corporations are not.
Special thanks to Make the Road New York for this information about their campaign; much of it was translated from Spanish to English by Alliance staff.