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Community Town Hall Demands an End to Immigration Detention in New York

NEW YORK, NY — Advocates, people impacted by immigration detention and elected officials gathered at the Bronx Music Heritage Center on June 23, 2023, to discuss the urgent need to pass the Dignity Not Detention Act in New York State. The evening was a powerful uncovering of the realities of immigration detention in New York, including a community forum in which individuals shared personal testimonies of their experience in ICE detention and detailed the racist, unsafe and retaliatory treatment of those detained in our own backyards. The event also featured a performance by Gbenga Akkinagbe (The Wire, Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird) of Edafe Okporo’s one-man show “Do Not Let Anyone Know I Am a Prince.”

“We need to counter the narrative that the increase in migrants to New York is a threat to resources for all New Yorkers,” said Assembly Member Karines Reyes. “We need to push our government to make investments that they should’ve made in the first place. The fight to pass the Dignity Not Detention Act goes hand-in-hand with the fight to end the housing crisis, mass pretrial detention and poverty. The goal is overarching — more dignity and humanity for the people of New York.”

On any given night, hundreds of New Yorkers are detained by ICE in jails and prisons across the state in inhumane and abusive conditions. The New York Dignity Not Detention Act gets New York State out of the business of immigration detention and profiting off of family separation. When immigrants and communities can live in dignity and freedom, we’ll create a more welcoming state for all who call New York home.

“Immigration detention was used to prosecute me for seeking protection in the United States,” said Edafe Okporo, founder of Refuge America. “As a cisgender gay man, I faced persecution in the hands of U.S. immigration detention center, but nothing compared to the humiliation of transgender, pregnant and disabled individuals, we must end this modern day slavery and create a more compassionate system for welcoming people in need.”

“Between the end of Title 42, the increase in asylum seekers and the escalation of right-wing anti-immigrant sentiment, it is important now more than ever for NY state to show leadership on immigration policy,” said Tania Mattos, founding member of Abolish ICE NY-NJ. “It is disappointing that NYC is considering using the former Lincoln Correctional Center in Harlem to hold asylum seekers. We must do better as a city and as a state. We must join the seven other states who seek to support immigrants and pass Dignity Not Detention now.”

“The Bronx Defenders is proud to have participated in the powerful event last week,’” said Carol Larancuent, Immigration Policy Advocate at the Bronx Defenders. “Community based conversations about the realities of what it means to seek asylum and experience immigrant detention in NYS is the foundation to seeing real lasting change. We must end ICE detention and we must hold our elected officials accountable to creating conditions where all of us can thrive, including those who have recently arrived from other countries in search of freedom, safety and stability.”


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