With Luba Cortés & Jessica Swensen
The following discussion was recorded at Target-Rich Environment on March 16, 2016. Organizer Luba Cortés of Make the Road New York and attorney Jessica Swensen of the Bronx Defenders discussed the nexus between President Trump’s far-reaching deportation policy and “broken windows policing” in New York City. While Mayor De Blasio Mayor has promised to protect immigrants and uphold New York’s status as a sanctuary city, the city’s policing strategy is at odds with this commitment. The conversation between Swensen and Cortés was succeeded by a discussion with Abou Farman, of New York City’s New Sanctuary Coalition, about the concept of sanctuary and how it might be extended to spaces beyond churches.
On January 25, a mere five days into his presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order prioritizing the search and deportation of “criminal” noncitizens in the United States. The order’s wording gives wide latitude to immigration officials; even being accused of a crime is grounds for deportation. In early February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials seemingly brought the order into action, arresting more than six hundred people on immigration-related charges in at least eleven states in the span of a week.
New York City is a “target-rich environment,” in the words of one federal immigration official. And, like many other major American metropolises with large immigrant populations, New York City has declared itself a “sanctuary” and promised to limit cooperation with federal immigration officials. “We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status,” Mayor Bill de Blasio declared in late January. Yet the city’s long-standing commitment to the “broken windows” model of policing, which disproportionately targets poor people of color, directly belies this pledge. Every year, NYPD officers make hundreds of thousands of arrests for so-called quality of life crimes like littering, walking through a park after dark, or selling loose cigarettes. When local police arrest someone, city departments send fingerprints, names, addresses, and other identifying information to federal officials, including the FBI and ICE, no matter how trivial the offense. Despite the grossly inflated risk to noncitizens under Trump’s new order, de Blasio has so far failed to revisit the broken-windows model, leaving open the question of what kind of sanctuary New York can claim to be.
Please join Triple Canopy for a conversation with organizer Luba Cortés of Make the Road New York and attorney Jessica Swensen of the Bronx Defenders on broken-windows policing and the growing sanctuary movement—from faith spaces to college campuses, from restaurants to art spaces—under the Trump administration. Cortés and Swensen will each share aspects of their work organizing and advocating for noncitizen communities at risk before we open the discussion to audience members. The conversation will explore opportunities to support ongoing immigrant-rights efforts while also considering how we might develop strategies for moving forward.
For those who'd like to do some background reading, we recommend Shakeer Rahman and Robin Steinberg's “Sanctuary Cities in Name Only,” in the New York Times; Max Rivlin-Nader's “Yes, New Yorkers Can Be Deported for Jumping a Turnstile,” in the Village Voice; Michael Greenberg's “‘Broken Windows’ and the New York Police,’” in the New York Review of Books; Hilary Goodfriend's “A Demand for Sanctuary,” in Jacobin; and Jake Offenhartz's "Inside the Churches That Are Leading New York’s Sanctuary Movement" in the Nation.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.
- Luba Cortés is a Latinx, queer youth organizer at Make the Road New York, one of the city’s largest immigrant-rights organizations. Cortés, who is formerly undocumented, has organized around immigrant rights for years, advocating to change policies that lead to the mass deportation and incarceration of undocumented communities of color. Using a social-justice and intersectional lens, they help young people build leadership through immigrant experiences. They also work with LGBTQ issues, including as a recruitment co-chair for the Latino Institute at Creating Change. In June 2016, Cortés published an op-ed in the New York Times highlighting their mother’s struggle as an immigrant.
- Jessica Swensen has been a supervising attorney in the immigration practice at the Bronx Defenders since 2016. She began at the organization—which provides criminal defense, civil legal services, advocacy, and other forms of support to indigent Bronx residents—as an immigration staff attorney in 2013. She defended clients in removal proceedings, represented clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and advised noncitizen clients on immigration consequences of criminal contacts. While in law school at Boston College, she represented clients through the Immigration and Asylum Project, volunteered with the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project, and was on the executive board of the National Lawyers Guild. She speaks Spanish.