A xenophobe gets a house call
reports on a protest outside the home of a state assembly member who is tying to force New York City to share records with federal immigration officials.
DOZENS OF members of the Brooklyn group Bay Ridge for Social Justice carpooled across the Verrazano Bridge to meet up with Staten Island activists and march to the home of a state legislator who is trying to build her political resume by attacking and scapegoating undocumented immigrants.
In December, New York State Assembly member Nicole Malliotakis, whose district includes Bay Ridge and parts of Staten Island, joined fellow Staten Island Republican Assembly member Ron Castorina to file a lawsuit to stop New York City from destroying personal information collected under its municipal ID card program.
IDNYC is an initiative from Mayor Bill de Blasio designed to provide photo identification to segments of the population who normally cannot obtain them. According to the IDNYC website, the card "benefits every city resident, including the most vulnerable communities--the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID."
IDNYC is designed to help all New Yorkers have access to city buildings and services such public schools, bank accounts, museums and other cultural institutions.
When the program was launched, it was understood that the city would protect information gathered so that it couldn't be used to target undocumented immigrants. Since the presidential election of Donald Trump, many immigrant advocates have demanded that the IDNYC data be destroyed so that it couldn't be turned over to the federal government.
Malliotakis and Castorina claim that their lawsuit to stop the destruction of IDNYC data is meant to prevent banking fraud and protect national security, but they don't keep their anti-immigrant agenda very well hidden.
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WHEN ASKED by WNYC's Brian Lehrer why she opposed sanctuary for the undocumented, Malliotakis cited a recent murder on Long Island to bolster her dubious claims that protecting immigrants leads to crime:
There have been, as you've seen, numerous reports of individuals who have committed various crimes. Most recently here in New York State in Long Island there was the MS13 gang which murdered two teens. Ten out of the 13 of those arrested in that heinous crime were illegal immigrants. Also there was another gang member from the MS13 as well. He was deported 14 times previously and allegedly brutally stabbed a woman in a parking lot... and also raped her 2-year-old daughter. So we should not be having any policies in this country that protect individuals who are here illegally and committing crimes against our citizenry.
In a January budget hearing, Malliotakis dragged out discredited racist canards to confront de Blasio about the supposed security threats posed by the city's decision not to have its criminal justice system work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
So, for instance, if an individual here conducts sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse in the second and third degree, grand larceny, welfare fraud, identity theft--this was just a small list of a much larger list in which the city refuses to comply with detainer requests from the federal government--why would you protect individuals who are here illegally committing these crimes?
Malliotakis was echoing the talking points of the Trump administration, whose newly created Office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) intends to publish alleged crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, even though various studies have shown that immigrants, including undocumented ones, commit far fewer crimes than the native-born population.
That didn't stop de Blasio, who has championed himself as a national "resistance leader" against Trump, from meekly going along to this bogus anti-immigrant logic in his response to Malliotakis:
If there are some offenses that we should add, we are willing to do that always. But I would say anyone in good conscience who reads that list of 170 offenses, which is essentially any acts of violence, anything involving a weapon, anything involving terror, any major drug offenses--it's quite comprehensive--understands the intent is to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.
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BAY RIDGE for Social Justice, a group rooted in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population as well as many Brooklyn-born Arabs and Muslims, wasn't going to sit quietly as Malliotakis and Castorina scapegoated and targeted their neighbors.
The group of more than 40 protesters marched two by two along the narrow sidewalk through the suburban Staten Island neighborhood. They chanted, "No hate! No fear! Immigrants are welcome here!" while flanked on both sides by tall trees adorned with blue "Police Lives Matter" ribbons and American flags flapping in the spring breeze.
As the protesters reached the Malliotakis home, they switched the chant to "Rescind (the lawsuit) or resign!"
Protesters used "the people's mic" to speak out against the lawsuit and show support for immigrants. Some speakers recounted their own experience as immigrants while others spoke about the need for solidarity.
After an hour of chanting and speaking out, the activists vowed to keep up the fight and build a resistance to racist anti-immigrant policies before marching to a nearby park to celebrate the action.
The day before the protest, a Staten Island judge ruled that the city had the right to destroy the data collected by IDNYC, but that it couldn't do so until opponents had a chance to appeal the ruling by April 17, which Malliotakis and Castorina plan to do.
The ruling is a temporary victory for our side, but regardless of the outcome of the appeal, we cannot stop standing up to bigots because lawsuits will not win full equality and protections for immigrants.
Groups like Bay Ridge for Social Justice must keep up the pressure on racist politicians and continue to build solidarity protests and neighborhood and workplace emergency response networks to fight anti-immigrant attacks whenever they rear their ugly head.