Things That Matter

A New York City Landlord Is Facing A $17K Fine After Threatening To Call ICE On Tenant

We’ve all heard stories of shady landlords doing crazy things to their tenants. Whether it’s raising rent without notice or using discriminatory practices to try to kick out a resident. But one landlord in New York City took it up a notch when she threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on her tenant if she didn’t pay overdue rent. An administrative judge in New York City ruled this month that the landlord should pay a $5,000 fine and $12,000 in damages for threatening to call ICE. 

The tenant, Holly Ondaan, is from Guyana with European Union citizenship and was undocumented when her former landlord, Dianna Lysius, threatened to call immigration officials on her. Now, Lysius is facing legal trouble and a hefty fine after a New York City judge called her actions a “human rights violation.” 

According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the judges decision is thought to be the first housing case in the country in which an individual was fined for threatening to call immigration authorities.

The situation began back in October 2017 when Ondaan, who lived on the Queens property since 2011, admittedly stopped paying rent due to financial difficulties in her life at the time. Shortly after, she began to receive texts from Lysius about the missing money that would lead to her falling behind in mortgage payments and eventually having to sell the property in foreclosure. In his ruling, Judge John B. Spooner said that Lysius’s “dire financial circumstances likely played a significant part in motivating her hostile messages.”

That’s when things started getting hostile. In January 2018, Lysius began eviction proceedings against Ondaan and would write in a text message that she would call ICE if she didn’t pay rent that same day. According to the judges report, some of the texts included:

“It was fun and games when you calling DOB now it’s fun and games calling immigration 12 times day. They can deport you.”

After a three months of discriminatory texts, New York’s Commission on Human Rights sent Lysius a cease-and-desist letter requesting that she stop harassing her tenant. The commission said that Lysius’s actions were discriminatory and unlawful. 

Lysius to this point has denied all the accusations of harassment towards her former tenant. While she has been fined, there are still more legal steps that must happen before it goes into effect.

The case is a first when it comes to a landlord using immigration services to threaten a tenant. The commission also saw it as a case setting precedent  and classified Lysius’s actions as discrimination under New York City’s human-rights law. 

“It sets important case precedent for the interpretation of our Human Rights Law to include the weaponization of ICE to intimidate or harass someone in housing as a violation,” Sapna V. Raj, deputy commissioner for the law enforcement bureau of the city’s Commission on Human Rights, told CNN. “We will not allow our city’s most vulnerable to be further marginalized out of fear for their safety in their own homes. Immigration status, citizenship, and national origin (perceived or actual) are protected categories under our law, and we will continue to fight to ensure those protections are enforced to the fullest extent.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lysius said she never send the texts and emails to her former tenant and as of now, she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. “Everything in that report is false,” Lysius said.

Ondaan has admitted that she wasn’t authorized to be in the U.S. at the time when Lysius threats began. She would obtain her green card in July 2018, according to the judges ruling. She would moved out of the property in October 2018, owing $14,400 in back rent. A court ruled that Ondaan would have to pay $6,895 of the past rent. 

Spooner’s decision won’t take effect before both parties have time to submit comments and the city human rights commission issues a final decision, according to CNN. Lysius can then file her appeal.

READ: ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

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ICE Admits It Made A Mistake In Deporting This Guatemalan Man So Why Hasn’t He Been Brought Back?

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ICE Admits It Made A Mistake In Deporting This Guatemalan Man So Why Hasn’t He Been Brought Back?

JOHAN ORDONEZ / Getty Images

Although the Coronavirus pandemic poses special risks to migrants who are returned to their countries – as well as the communities they’re put back into – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport migrants by the thousands.

There have been several reports of deportees spreading Covid-19 back in their communities after being removed from the U.S., which makes sense considering the U.S. is leading the world in Covid-19 infections.

However, ICE has admitted that they made a mistake with one recent deportation, when they removed a man who was legally awaiting his asylum process.

A Guatemalan man was wrongfully deported and ICE admits it was their mistake.

A 29-year-old Guatemalan man seeking asylum in the U.S. was mistakenly deported by authorities despite the lack of a deportation order – and worse, before he even had his first appointment in immigration court.

César Marroquín was deported August 19 – the same day he he was supposed to appear for the first time before an immigration judge. Instead, he was sent back to Guatemala – with dozens of other deportees – the country from which he fled after being the victim of aggression and kidnapping, according to his account.

“They told me that if I didn’t get on the plane, I’d be charged,” Marroquín told Noticias Telemundo. “There was some mistake with me in the system.”

His current attorney, Marty Rosenbluth, believes it is a flagrant error. “I’ve seen quite a few cases of people who were deported in error. I’ve never seen one quite like this where they were deported even before their first hearing, “ he told NBC News.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, said in a statement that Marroquín’s deportation was due to an “administrative error” while his case was still open.

Despite their mistake, Marroquín remains in Guatemala.

Although the mistake lay completely with U.S. ICE agents, Marroquín remains in his native Guatemala at risk of further persecution.

According to Marroquín’s official complaint filed in Guatemala, he said he suffered political persecution and physical violence after he supported a local politician and turned down a request to work with a rival one. After that, he said he was threatened and his home was damaged and raided; he also suspects someone tampered with his car. Marroquín said he was then kidnapped at gunpoint, tortured for several days and then left on the side of the road. He decided to leave the country after that and sought asylum protections in the United States.

The authorities and Marroquín’s attorney are now working on his readmission to the United States.

“This type of gross negligence is completely inexcusable,” said Rosenbluth, his current attorney. “The law is very, very clear that they can’t deport someone in the middle of their immigration court proceedings. They’re just not allowed to do it.”

Of course, not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time the immigration agency has made a mistake in deportations.

In 2018, ICE made a similar mistake with an undocumented inmate at a New Hampshire jail. ICE agents violated an appeals court order and deported the man back to El Salvador, where he lost 60 pounds and was subject to starvation, beatings, and overcrowding, according to the American Civil Liberties Union-New Hampshire, which represents the man.

“This is a very serious matter to us,” said Scott Grant Stewart, a deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, who appeared before a three-judge panel to explain the error. “We’re sorry for the violation of the court’s order. This was inadvertent. We do acknowledge the error.”

In fact, there are thousands of documented cases of U.S. citizens being deported by ICE.

According to a Northwestern University political scientist, Jacqueline Stevens, more than 1,500 U.S. citizens have spent time in immigration detention or even been deported between 2007 and 2015. More recent examples abound of the U.S. government detaining citizens after falsely accusing them of breaking immigration laws.

ICE authorities reportedly detained for three days Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a veteran born in Grand Rapids, Michigan who served with the Marines in Afghanistan, in 2018 because the agency did not believe he was born here.

ICE also detained for more than three weeks a man named Peter Brown who was born in Philadelphia and lived in the Florida Keys in 2018 because the agency confused him with an undocumented Jamaican immigrant – who was also named Peter Brown.

In 2007, the government settled a lawsuit arising from ICE’s detention of 6-year-old Kebin Reyes. ICE detained the California-born child for 10 hours when it picked up his undocumented father, even though his father immediately handed the authorities Reyes’ U.S. passport to prove the boy’s citizenship. And Justice Department records obtained by the Los Angeles Times indicate that a 10-year-old boy from San Francisco was mistakenly held in immigration detention in Texas for two months, according to his lawyer.

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ICE Is Launching A New Round Of Raids To Boost Trump’s ‘Law And Order’ Campaign

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ICE Is Launching A New Round Of Raids To Boost Trump’s ‘Law And Order’ Campaign

Gregory Bull / Getty Images

Despite a growing number of immense challenges across the country, the Trump administration is planning a major offensive against the migrant community. Although he’s in the hospital battling the Coronavirus, Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is working to instill fear in the undocumented community with a new round of immigration raids.

The new operation is set to launch this week and will specifically target sanctuary cities and counties to help support Trump’s campaign talk of ‘law & order.’

Already, the nation’s immigrant communities – particularly the Latinx community – are reeling from increased risk of Coronavirus infection to higher rates of unemployment. Now, the community is being forced to consider their next steps as ICE agents roll into major cities across the country to step up enforcement actions.

ICE is launching a new round of immigration raids just weeks before the election.

In what is an obvious attempt to cast himself as the ‘law & order’ president, Trump’s ICE agency is planning a large scale immigration campaign beginning this week. The new campaign will target arrests in U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have adopted “sanctuary” policies, according to three U.S. officials, who spoke to the Washington Post.

The operation, known informally as the “sanctuary op,” will likely launch in California before expanding to other cities, including Denver and Philadelphia. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, probably will travel to at least one of the cities where the operation will take place to boost President Trump’s claims that leaders in those cities have failed to protect residents from dangerous criminals, two officials told The Post.

Two officials told The Post anonymously that the operation is more about getting a political message across than a major operation by ICE, stressing that the agency is already working hard to combat violators of immigration policy daily, often without much publicity.

Trump hopes to target sanctuary cities to send the message that Democrats are weak on crime.

The Trump Administration has made no secret of its contempt for cities and other jurisdictions that have enacted so-called sanctuary policies. In fact, ICE has repeatedly threatened cities and counties with such policies with increased enforcement actions, saying they’ll send more agents to make arrests in their jurisdictions if they continue advocating such policies.

Cities that normally operate with sanctuary policies usually refuse to hold immigrants in jail longer than they are required so that ICE officers can take them into custody. Although ICE agents are still able to pick up people suspected of immigration violations, they do so without the help of local law enforcement such as a coordinated handover. It means that ICE agents usually have a much harder time picking up wanted people in cities which do not officially cooperate with the agency.

“Generally speaking, as ICE has noted for years, in jurisdictions where cooperation does not exist and ICE is not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, ICE is forced to arrest at-large criminal aliens out in the communities instead of under the safe confines of a jail,’ said Mike Alvarez, an ICE spokesman.

ICE has long floated possible campaigns meant to capture as many migrants as possible.

The idea for a campaign publicizing criminal arrests in sanctuary cities has been floated repeatedly during the Trump administration, two officials said, and was under consideration actively this spring before the Coronavirus pandemic. After the outbreak, ICE deferred some of its enforcement plans, citing health risks, and during that time, the agency’s arrests dropped by about one-third, statistics show.

Just last year, the White House had pushed for a “family op”, with the intent of targeting migrant parents with children. However, the operation failed to gain the number of arrests that Trump had wanted so it was scrapped. The president tipped off that operation, announcing it in a tweet. Some ICE officials privately attributed the operation’s underwhelming results to Trump’s boasting and indiscipline.

Another such plan – meant to punish sanctuary cities – was to bus asylum-seeking migrants from the border and drop them off in San Francisco, a city with a sanctuary policy. It was met with widespread ridicule.

However, operations such as these do have profound impacts on migrant communities. As news of enforcement operations such as these spread, many immigrants go deeper underground, living in fear that they may be arrested and deported while their children – often times U.S. citizens – will be left behind.

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