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Photo courtesy of ICE
Photo courtesy of ICE

Raids conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Queens have increased dramatically since President Donald Trump took office, according to research conducted by a pair of legal rights advocacy organizations.

The Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the findings in July in the form of an interactive map called ICEwatch that shows nearly 700 ICE raids in the New York area since 2013. In Queens alone, there have been 131 incidents during that time, the highest number in the five boroughs.

The map also shows that 94 of those Queens raids, or 72 percent, have taken place since Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump’s term officially began.

In a press release coinciding with the launch of the map, IDP Senior Staff Attorney Genia Blaser said that its purpose is to expose the questionable tactics used by ICE agents when arresting illegal immigrants.

“ICE relies on fear-mongering, secrecy, deceit, manipulation and force to enact its devastating deportation mandate to deport as many people as possible,” Blaser said. “By making the reports of their dehumanizing tactics widely available through ICEwatch, we aim to inform the public and community members around the escalation of ‘unshackled’ ICE policing.”

The map includes options for the user to filter the incidents shown by date, type of incident, county, location and ICE tactics used, which reveal more trends in the data. There are 698 incidents included on the map, and 462 of them, or 66 percent, have taken place since the president took office.

In Queens, 50 percent of all incidents on the map have been home raids and 30 percent have occurred at a courthouse. In addition, 40 percent have involved the surveillance of a suspected immigrant while 28 percent have involved a ruse, or a deceptive tactic meant to trick the suspect into an arrest.

A description of each incident is also available when a user clicks it on the map. During a February incident in Maspeth, for example, three ICE agents dressed as police showed up at a individual’s home and demanded to see his identification after he let them inside. After he showed his ID, the agents arrested him in front of his 10-year-old autistic son.

In January, ICE agents showed up to a Corona man’s home and his wife let them inside because they said they were police, the map states. The agents arrested the individual and threatened his wife while their four minor children were awoken by the commotion. Since the man’s arrest, his wife and children have been evicted and are currently living in a homeless shelter.

In December of 2017, multiple ICE agents pretending to be police started banging on the door of a Woodside man’s apartment before 6 a.m., according to the map. Through the closed door, the agents told the man’s sister that they were police and were looking for someone named “Vasquez.” The man’s sister told the agents that nobody by that name lived in the apartment, but the agents stated they had a warrant.

The man’s sister asked the agents to slip the warrant under the door but they refused, only flashing something quickly by the peephole, the map describes.

The man then woke up and went to the door and opened it to tell the agents that they had the wrong apartment. His sister, whose three children were now awake and watching the situation unfold, began arguing with the agents saying that she needed to see the warrant. She eventually let the agents inside and upon requesting to see everyone’s identification, the agents arrested the man without ever identifying themselves as ICE agents.

“ICEwatch shines a light on ICE’s program of terrorizing communities through raids, ruses, home invasions, courthouse arrests and other forms of coercion,” said Ghita Schwarz, Center for Constitutional Rights senior attorney. “By demonstrating the wide reach of ICE’s destructive and unlawful tactics, we hope to educate and empower immigrants and allies.”

When reached over the phone on Aug. 14, IDP spokesperson Alejandra Lopez said that the incidents included on the map were verified through the organization’s partnerships with Regional Immigration Assistance Centers and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project. First-hand accounts from witnesses who called IDP’s hotline have been vetted through the attorneys representing those who have been arrested, Lopez explained.

While there are incidents that were left off the map because they could not be verified, Lopez added that there are also raids that go unreported so the map should not be seen as comprehensive.

ICE has not yet responded to a request for comment about the map.

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