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Photo via Twitter/@SenGianaris
Photo via Twitter/@SenGianaris

Another Queens Democrat recently took a hard stance on the immigration crisis that is sweeping the nation when he labeled Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a “rogue agency” that must be abolished.

State Senator Michael Gianaris made the statement on July 2 at a rally in Long Island City before welcoming Yeni Gonzalez to New York. Gonzalez is a Guatemalan immigrant who was detained in Arizona and separated from her children, who were sent to New York to be in the care of the Cayuga Center in East Harlem after the family illegally crossed the U.S./Mexico border.

In addition to calling ICE a rogue agency, Gianaris said that it’s under the direction of a “rogue president.”

“Both must be stopped before more havoc is wreaked on people seeking a better life in our country,” Gianaris said. “We must abolish ICE and then abolish Donald Trump at the ballot box as soon as possible.”

Gianaris was the first person to officially welcome Gonzalez to New York after a constituent from Long Island City, Julie Collazo, organized a volunteer group to bring Gonzalez to her children. Collazo and the rest of the volunteers raised more than $50,000 on a GoFundMe account, bonded Gonzalez out of the detention center where she was being held and drove across the country to reunite her with her children.

When QNS spoke to Gianaris on June 10 about his experience with Gonzalez, the lawmaker said that the distressed mother’s will to be reunited with her family and share their story was “very powerful.”

She was tired and beaten down with everything she had been through,” Gianaris said. “I was impressed with her strength and resolve to not only do what is necessary to get back with her children, but tell her story so all mothers in detention can have theirs told as well.”

The next day, Gianaris also accompanied Gonzalez as she went to the Cayuga Center to see her children for the first time in five weeks. Gonzalez met privately with her children, but Gianaris described her “tremendous excitement” before arriving at the center and her anxiety after the visit over finding sponsorship so that her children can be released.

The senator went on to explain that while he understands that policies from the president determine how ICE should act, he thinks agents could be acting in a “very aggressive and inappropriate manner” in some situations.

The agency has taken on a very rogue character, so we’re hearing a lot of stories of ICE agents asking for ID on lines to get onto mass transit, or the situation where they’re called in when someone uses an NYCID,” Gianaris said.

In abolishing ICE, Gianaris made clear that the idea is not to eliminate border security, it’s to restructure and reorganize enforcement efforts. Since ICE has only been in existence for less than 20 years, the senator pointed out, it would not be unprecedented to make such a change.

Gianaris’ stance followed suit with fellow Democratic representatives from the area. Congresswoman Grace Meng introduced legislation on June 28 to help immigrant children who have been separated from their families, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez called for the abolition of ICE on June 29. Councilman Robert Holden, on the other hand, said that he wanted to be a “voice of reason” for the Democrats, calling for better legislation and more inclusive immigration policies.

A son of immigrants himself, Gianaris said that he is also continuing to work for immigrants here in his district. Earlier in 2018, he introduced a bill aimed at eliminating discrimination based on immigration status, and going forward the senator said his office will always be a safe resource for immigrants in need of help.

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