Queens lawmakers team with Amnesty International on legislation to protect immigrant detainees in local jails

Weprin calls on ICE to end detention of immigrants, asylum seekers
Courtesy of Weprin’s office

Two Queens lawmakers and human rights organization want to ensure that immigration detainees are protected while in New York State.

Assemblyman David Weprin and state Senator John Liu recently partnered with Amnesty International to pass the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Oversight Act.

The legislation will ensure that conditions for immigrants in New York State county jails comply with legal detention standards. In addition, the law will also limit the expansion of detention facilities in the state unless approved by the legislature.

“As residents of the nation’s gateway, New Yorkers know the value of immigration and understand that the vast majority of those emigrating to our country are doing so for a better life and to contribute to our great country.” said Weprin. “We cannot continue to blindly comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency if it continues to violate the human rights of those seeking refuge in the United States. This bill will send a clear message that New York will not be complicit with the atrocities of the Federal Government and I look forward to its passage in our State’s Legislature.”

Weprin, who serves as the State Assembly Correction Chair, and other state legislatures made visits to county jails in which house immigration detainees and observed their substandard conditions. Such conditions are well reported at immigration detention facilities nationwide.

If passed, the new law  will require municipalities to gain approval by the legislature when seeking to use funds and resources to construct new facilities or expand existing ones.

The legislation will also establish a committee on immigration detention oversight. The governor, attorney general, comptroller, secretary of state, president pro tempore of the senate, and the speaker of the assembly-member committee will appoint the six-member committee that will be responsible for maintaining detainees’ safety while in New York State.

“ICE continuously flouts the law, with little or no regard for basic human rights,” said Liu. “The state of New York can and must legislate with all its power to reduce efforts of this reckless agency to use public funds for construction or expansion of facilities, existing municipal buildings or other resources for their purposes of federal detention.”

Amnesty International was formed in 1961 and is a London-based, non-government organization focusing on human rights. According to their website, their “global movement” involves more than 7 million people in over 150 countries and territories worldwide.

In a statement, the organization said that they oppose the Trump Administration’s “relentless attacks” on the “rights of asylum seekers, migrants and refugees” which they recognize as “a crisis of global magnitude.”

“This legislation is a vital step toward helping to meet our nation’s obligations under international law, and we fully support it,” said Sheetal Dhir, Senior Crisis Campaigner at Amnesty International USA on behalf of Amnesty International USA.

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