Biaggi, Engel lead rally against ICE presence in local courts, call for new state laws

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Elected officials, local activists and participants gathered Thursday near the Daronco Town House in the cold spring drizzle for a rally organized by State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi in response to three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers appearing at a town court hearing in the case of Carlos Duque, an undocumented immigrant.

Duque was arrested by Pelham Manor police on April 2 for allegedly driving with a fake license. According to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Duque faces charges of second degree forgery and possession of a forged instrument, both Class D felonies.

The rally was held to call on the New York State Legislature to pass legislation that would protect illegal immigrants. Specifically, Biaggi spoke of the Protect Our Courts Act, which would prohibit ICE arrests in state courts, and the Driver’s Licenses Access and Privacy Act, also known as the Green Light bill, which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain New York State driver’s licenses.

Biaggi closed her short speech by asking that citizens continue to work through municipal governments to make change and to remain vigilant and help those in need.

“Stationing ICE agents outside of courthouses is a betrayal of our values,” said Congressman Eliot Engel. “This is America—we should be focused on welcoming immigrants, not deporting them.”

He said America is a nation of immigrants and that ICE is “out of control.”

County Legislator Terry Clements pointed to the importance of immigrants in forming the backbone of Westchester County and in helping to construct many significant structures in Westchester.

Vanessa Agudello, manager of member engagement for the Hudson Valley at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), specifically endorsed the Green Light Act.

“By continuing to bar our immigrant community members from gaining access to drivers’ licenses, we are effectively putting our most vulnerable neighbors in harm’s way,” she said.

Jennifer Hernandez, organizing coordinator for Make the Road New York, a grassroots organization that seeks to enact social change, began to chant, “ICE out of courts,” which the crowd picked up and repeated.

Duque’s wife Melissa spoke briefly, saying that her husband is a good man and describing the guiding influence he had on his daughter, who is now in college.

Duque’s next hearing on the charges will take place May 16 in Pelham Town Court. During that time, he will remain in Westchester County Jail.