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ICE Disproportionately Targeting Asian Americans for Immigration Detention and Deportation in NYC

New York City: On February 21, 2019, the New York City Comptroller’s Office released a new report on the increase in immigration enforcement activity in New York City. The Comptroller’s report, "The Demographics of Detention: Immigration Enforcement Under Trump," shows that Asian immigrants are being disproportionately targeted for immigration detention and deportation. For example, while immigrants from China represent 14 percent of the non-citizen population in New York City, they are defendants in 21 percent of all immigration enforcement cases. Similarly, immigrants from Bangladesh and India represent, respectively, 2.8 percent and 2.5 percent of all non-citizens in the city, but they are part of, respectively, 8 percent and 10 percent of all immigration enforcement cases.

One of the reasons that Asian immigrants are easy targets for immigration enforcement is the lack of capacity among Asian community-based organizations to work on immigration legal services. The Asian community needs trusted voices to deliver the correct information on how to navigate the complex immigration system. The Asian-serving nonprofit community has been advocating for increased investment toward outreach and training to better inform the Asian community about the full range of immigrant relief options available to those impacted by immigration enforcement. Additional investment is sorely needed because the Asian population is the fastest-growing group in New York City, now representing 15% of the city’s population. However, only 1.4% of contract dollars from city social service agencies went to programs run by Asian-led, or Asian-serving community organizations. This shortfall belies the demonstrated need of a community where one in four people live in poverty, and seven in ten are immigrants.

The Comptroller’s report corroborates the many anecdotal stories that the Asian American Federation (AAF) has heard about Asian families being torn apart by immigration authorities. The latest numbers show that 9 in 10 Asian children have at least one immigrant parent, which means that many Asian families are being or could be impacted by immigration detention and deportation. Additionally, through the immigrant integration programs that AAF runs in partnership with several of our member agencies, we have learned that there are a number of DACA applicants who qualify for more permanent immigration relief. However, these applicants did not know that they were eligible because there has historically been limited outreach and information available to the Asian community.

AAF thanks Comptroller Stringer for his leadership in highlighting the impact of immigration enforcement on Asian New Yorkers. We call on policy makers, elected officials, and private funders to make further investments in building immigrant legal service programs and partnerships that will allow trusted community-based organizations to serve Asian immigrants where they live and in languages they understand.