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ICE director's appearance at Rensselaer County Jail spurs protest

ICE director's appearance at Rensselaer County Jail spurs protest

ICE chief slams Green Light Law
ICE director's appearance at Rensselaer County Jail spurs protest
Immigration and refugee rights activists protest outside of the Rensselaer County Jail in Troy on Thursday, February 20, 2020.
Photographer: Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

ALBANY — The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ripped into Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers Thursday, urging them to undo a law blocking federal agencies from accessing motor vehicle records.

A phalanx of state and federal law enforcement officials stood shoulder to shoulder behind acting ICE director Matthew Albence during an upstate event as he repeatedly invoked 9/11 and decried New York’s Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants in New York to apply for a driver’s license and prevents immigration authorities from the state’s DMV database.

“New York has barred these two agencies, and only these two agencies, from obtaining the information we need to do our jobs, and to keep you safe, and it was done purely for political purposes,” Albence said, referencing ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. “As a 25-year law enforcement professional, it’s unfathomable that information which could be used to prevent crime or a potential terrorist attack is purposefully being withheld in this state, the same state that less than 20 years ago suffered the worst terrorist attack on American soil.”

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  
Immigration and refugee rights activists protest outside of the Rensselaer County Jail as Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew T. Albence holds a press conference to push for changes to the state Green Light Law, in Troy on Thursday, February 20, 2020.ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Immigration and refugee rights activists protest outside of the Rensselaer County Jail as Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew T. Albence holds a press conference to push for changes to the state Green Light Law, in Troy on Thursday, February 20, 2020.

Outside the event, held at the Rensselaer County Jail, across the Hudson and a few miles north of the state capital, dozens of protesters shouted and pounded on the building’s windows.

“Abolish ICE,” they chanted as they drummed on the panes, briefly drowning out Rensselaer County Sheriff Ed Bly as he attempted to address the crowd of reporters inside. Advocates often accuse ICE agents of overly aggressive tactics and targeting innocent immigrants.

“There’s a diversity of voices here, of people saying we want to welcome immigrants, we don’t want this fear-mongering,” said one 41-year-old protester who only gave her name as Angela. “We are here, we welcome immigrants and we are opposed to the cops collaborating with ICE.”

Albence’s visit comes amid rising tensions between the state and federal authorities over the Green Light Law in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, DHS suspended enrollment in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, like Global Entry, for all New York residents over the Green Light Law. In response, Gov. Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against the feds.

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  
Immigration and refugee rights activists protest outside of the Rensselaer County Jail as Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew T. Albence holds a press conference to push for changes to the state Green Light Law, in Troy on Thursday, February 20, 2020.ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Immigration and refugee rights activists protest outside of the Rensselaer County Jail as Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew T. Albence holds a press conference to push for changes to the state Green Light Law, in Troy on Thursday, February 20, 2020.

Last week, Cuomo met with President Trump, but the pair failed to reach a compromise.

Albence, who declined to comment on the recent shooting of Brooklyn man by an ICE agent, said investigations across the country are being impacted by the new rule and officers’ lives are being placed in jeopardy.

“We are not asking the state of New York to provide us a list of illegal immigrants," he said. “Preventing ICE and (Customs and Border Patrol) from accessing this data is dangerous. It is dangerous to the public and it is dangerous to our officers and agents, who are currently at greater risk of harm because they lack access to this data.”

Cuomo, who a day earlier warned of mass deportations should the feds gain access to DMV data, repeated his argument that DHS can easily gain access to criminal records through the FBI accused the feds of playing politics.

“They want access to a database that has undocumented people who have done nothing wrong,” he said at an unrelated event in the city. “If a person committed a crime, they have access to that database because the FBI gets it. So, anyone who committed a crime, the FBI knows. They want just undocumented who are living peacefully, have not committed a crime, are not violent, so they can disrupt families, and continue their political jihad, which is what it is. It’s a pure political crusade.”

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