NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is reiterating his demands that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers stop representing themselves as local police.
In a strongly worded letter last week, the mayor told Tony Pham, the acting head of agency, that the NYPD does not want ICE agents stating or implying that they represent the city's police department in order to gain access to homes or make immigration arrests.
"ICE is not only lying and using what I think is an illegal approach to try and gain entry into people's homes, but they're also in the process, I think, pretty purposely trying to poison the relationship between the NYPD and immigrants and local government and immigrants. "They're being quite brazen about the fact that to gain entry or to get someone to open the door, they will openly lie about who they are."
On his weekly appearance on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show" the mayor accused ICE of "trying to sow chaos."
"And this is what they are at this point. ICE is basically a political wing of the Trump political operation right now, but we are going to try and find any means we can to stop this," de Blasio said.
The mayor underscored the long simmering dispute between the federal government and the city's self-proclaimed status as a sanctuary city.
"There's a massive difference between a federal immigration agency and our local police, especially when, for decades, the NYPD has said we will not ask documentation status," de Blasio said.
In a statement, Pham said ICE agents are sworn law enforcement officers who "enforce immigration laws created by Congress to keep this country safe."
"ICE has repeatedly asked New York officials, including the mayor, to reconsider its non-cooperation policies and practices and to work with the government to restore the rule of law. While the mayor of New York City sits by and allows criminal aliens to freely roam, ICE continues to protect communities by taking criminal aliens off the streets," Pham said.
He continued by saying, "The mayor and other officials who refuse to cooperate with ICE need to understand that they are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity because ICE has no choice but to conduct more at-large targeted enforcement actions in order to achieve its congressionally mandated mission. This means that the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals that wouldn’t have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail."
According to the Department of Homeland Security, last week in the New York City area ICE officers arrested nearly 50 undocumented immigrants, with convictions or charges related to rape, sex assault, and abuse of minors.
ICE said the word "police" is a universally recognized symbol for law enforcement in most cultures and could mean the difference between life and death for agents trying to identify themselves as sworn law enforcement personnel in dangerous situations.