Green Party Opposes Border Patrol Sweeps in Upstate New York

Howie Hawkins - Green for Governor
Media Release -

For Immediate Release: August 31, 2010
Howie Hawkins, 315 425-1019
Mark Dunlea, 518 860-3725


Howie Hawkins, the Green Party nominee for Governor, said today if elected he would seek to end the sweeps by the Border Patrol in upstate New York.


The Board Patrol frequently boards buses and trains in upstate New York and asks people of color to provide documentation of their legal residency or citizenship. Some of the Green Party candidates for office this fall have been subjected to this treatment.


"New York has always prided itself on being a melting pot. Our state has often revived itself both economically and socially by a new wave of immigration. New York is not just a home for people of northern European descent. People should not be targeted due to the color of the skin or their accent," said Hawkins.


"The Greens oppose turning the US into a country where its residents are required to produce ID papers at the whim of government bureaucrats. Already, individuals who travel public transportation in upstate New York, especially in the western regions, have begun carrying passports or other legal papers because they never know when they will be subject to questioning," added Hawkins.


Census data shows that 20% of New York State residents were foreign born. More than one in six are classified as Hispanic and 17% as Black by the census.


Cecile Lawrence, who is running for the US Senate seat presently held by Gillibrand, said that when she was teaching at the Rochester Institute of Technology this winter and spring, the Border Patrol would routinely board the bus she took from Binghamton.


"The first time I got questioned I replied 'U.S.' That did not seem to satisfy the armed employee of Border Patrol. Apparently he wanted 'United States.' When he questioned me again, I pointed to the ground and said 'Here!' After a while of making this weekly bus trip for six months from Rochester, they probably recognized me and so stopped questioning me," said Dr. Lawrence.


"They tend to target people of color. I have seen terrified people, who were speaking Spanish in the bus station, reply 'New York' as their citizenship when questioned on the bus and stopped speaking completely after that; the man let this answer pass. I have seen a graduate student from China scolded for not having her papers. I have seen a West African looking man, who spoke an African language on his cell phone, searching desperately for some kind of paper that would satisfy the armed border patrol. When we got to Syracuse, the Border Patrol was there again and made a beeline for that particular man. By that time, he had found some kind of papers. At times, border patrol would bring a German shepherd to search the luggage underneath. The dog would clamber all over people's luggage furiously," Lawrence added.


Hawkins previously announced that he would ensure that local school districts were not illegally requiring children to provide documentation of their status, something that is improperly done in one of five New York school districts, according to a recent survey by the NY Civil Liberties Union. Hawkins also supports providing drivers' licenses to all New York State residents regardless of their immigrant status, a position supported by many law enforcement officials.


The Green Party statewide ticket, including Cecile Lawrence and Colia Clark for US Senate, advocates for amnesty for undocumented immigrants; immigrant family reunification; creating a humane path to citizenship; and supporting labor rights and living wages for all workers. The Greens have long advocated that immigrants have the right to receive federal benefits such as health care and public assistance.


Studies by the Fiscal Policy Institute document the important economic role that immigrants play in New York. New York's immigrants are responsible for $229 billion in economic output in New York State. That's 22.4 percent of the total New York State. Despite the common impression that immigrants work primarily in low-wage jobs, immigrants in New York State are entrepreneurs, managers, and workers in jobs at all levels of the economy.

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