This Tuesday marked a national Day of Action on immigration, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. New York mayor Bill de Blasio marked the occasion by announcing a major new policy: starting immediately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will no longer be allowed to enter any of New York City’s 1,600 public schools for any purpose, unless they have a properly executed warrant signed by a judge. “There have been such deep fears and concerns these recent weeks,” counseled de Blasio. But, he promised, “ICE agents will not be wandering the halls of a school.”
The mayor, flanked by the schools commissioner, numerous elected officials, the city’s top lawyer, police representatives, and several dozen advocates for illegal immigrants, explained in depth the implementation of new training and procedures for dealing with federal agents when they show up at the schoolhouse door: the chain of command, the process of ascertaining the validity of warrants, the conditional entry of the agents, etc. “If ICE agents come to a school,” summarized Mayor de Blasio, “they will be kept outside the building.”
But when I asked how many times ICE agents, with or without warrants, had entered New York City school buildings so far, de Blasio answered, “None.” He agreed that the measure is entirely prophylactic—political theater, in other words. It’s true that ICE has stepped up immigration enforcement in New York City. In February, agents arrested 41 criminal aliens, most with convictions for rape, drunk driving, or drug charges. There is no evidence that immigration authorities have entered a school building anywhere in the United States for the purpose of arresting a child.
Mayor de Blasio and his colleagues and allies talk constantly about the fear that President Donald Trump is spreading among immigrants. Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaking at the same press conference, began her comments by noting, “This is an important announcement. . . . We are obviously living under a political climate where fear, uncertainty, and hate is [sic] plaguing our communities. Every day we wake up to news of families, law-abiding families, that are being ripped apart and separated from their loved ones.” Mark-Viverito referred specifically to Juan Vivares, a Colombian facing an order of deportation, who was profiled recently in the New York Times. Vivares had sought asylum status but failed repeatedly to make the case that he faces persecution in his home country. His last appeal was denied, and his deportation ordered, under the Obama administration.
Schools chancellor Carmen Fariña spoke about the experience of her immigrant parents and said that she understood the fears of immigrants in New York today. “I remember the conversations at my table,” explained Fariña. Speaking of her parents, she said, “I also remember that although they weren’t in fear here, they both came from a country where there was a lot of fear, which is why they came here.” Fariña’s parents fled the Spanish Civil War, a brutal conflict marked by repression and violence perpetrated by Fascist and Communist militias against soldiers and civilians alike, during which half a million people died. Fariña, who calls herself a “historian,” thus invokes a murderous proxy war between Hitler and Stalin to condemn America’s present system, whereby illegal immigrants may be deported to their home countries after lengthy judicial review.
Asked by another reporter if he thinks that ICE agents plan to storm schools and round up children, Mayor de Blasio averred, “I know it sounds outlandish, but we are seeing things we have not seen before, and there is a tremendous amount of fear out there.” But the country has always deported immigrants, and the laws have not changed since Trump moved in to the White House. No “sweeps” or other roundups of illegal aliens have taken place.
What are the “things we have not seen before,” then? I asked. The mayor answered testily: “The combination: the travel ban, we’ve never seen something like that before, where people were detained without any charge, in the original travel ban; we’ve never seen an executive order, that I know of, threatening homeland security funding; we haven’t seen an individual who the federal government attempted to deport while they were in the middle of medical treatment in this country. There’s a whole host of things.”
Detention of people with uncertain visa credentials at national borders “without any charge” is common throughout the world. In the case of the recent “travel ban,” no one was detained for more than a weekend: most U.S. states allow detention for up to 72 hours without the filing of charges. The mayor’s other examples are equally feeble: federal-funding disputes and an anecdote about a deportee whose “treatment” was interrupted don’t add up to tyranny. Enforcement of long-standing immigration law is not fascist ethnic cleansing.
The Left is operating in overdrive, promoting the idea that the government is sowing fear as part of a racial “purge,” as Mark-Viverito calls it. But in a municipal election year, it seems that the city’s elected leaders have found their own uses for fear—they’re trying to terrify their constituents.
Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office