By Council Members Alexa Avilés and Shahana Hanif

As we enter into the thick of election season, Republicans are running back their tried-and-true playbook of demonizing immigrant communities to rile up their base. This time, they are zeroing in on a supposed “migrant crime wave” that is provably false and blatantly misinforming the public about how New York City’s sanctuary policies function. We saw the troubling endgame of this xenophobic rhetoric earlier this month, when former Republican nominee for Mayor Curtis Sliwa broadcasted his associates randomly assaulting a longtime Bronx resident, who they racially profiled and targeted for abuse. 

Unfortunately, this conservative narrative has been picking up traction among Democratic leaders who should frankly know better. This week, Mayor Adams called for sanctuary city laws to be modified and categorically dismissed the importance of due process in criminal and immigration proceedings. As Council Members who are committed to keeping our City a bastion of immigrant rights, we want to take the opportunity to correct the record and share how our sanctuary policies keep all New Yorkers safe.

New York City’s sanctuary policies began in 1989, when Mayor Ed Koch issued an executive order that barred city officials from sharing information about immigrants with federal immigration agencies in most circumstances so that immigrants could access city services without fear. This policy was actively reissued and respected by every subsequent Mayor including Dinkins, Giuliani, Bloomberg, and de Blasio. Despite their varying ideologies, each recognized that in order for the City to thrive, there needed to be trust fostered between immigrant communities and city agencies.

Sanctuary policies have enabled immigrant New Yorkers to perform critical functions without the fear of deportation. This could look like a survivor of domestic violence accessing life-saving support services. It could be a worker or tenant reporting unsafe conditions at their jobsite or residence. Or it could be a community member notifying a first responder about a neighbor who is in danger.

In years past, the Council did its job to ensure these protections were legislated and strengthened, including through City laws in 2011, 2014 and 2017, limiting how and when the Department of Corrections and NYPD would collude with ICE and ensuring that city resources are not misused for immigration enforcement. During the Trump presidency, these legislative actions ensured City agencies were not transformed into a wing of his cruel, mass deportation machine that sought to break up families. 

It’s been almost a decade since some of these laws went into effect and they have been transformative–making our communities more equitable and ensuring far more people can participate in civic life, regardless of immigration status. However, our policies and values do not always get translated into practice and when city agencies violate our existing laws, they break trust between immigrant communities and city government, undermining the spirit of what it means to be a sanctuary city. This must stop. 

As elected leaders committed to safety for all New Yorkers and a city that recognizes the human rights of all its residents, we need this mayoral administration to stop parroting Trumpian talking points and attacking the basic due process rights that everyone should be protected by. We call on the Mayor to stop stoking division and focus on bringing communities together with proven safety solutions. 

We must strengthen, not roll back, our existing sanctuary protections so we have meaningful trust between immigrant communities and government actors. 

Don’t fall for the trap Mayor Adams. 

Council Member Alexa Avilés serves as the Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

Council Member Shahana Hanif serves as the Co-chair of theTaskforce to Combat Hate.