Summer is wrapping up in New York, but there’s still plenty going on as we head into the long Labor Day weekend. Here are three stories to watch as you head off to barbecues, beaches, or a weekend at home, in your last amExpress until after the holiday.
Two immigration cases
Union members and elected officials rallied this week urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release Guatemalan native Eber Garcia Vasquez, 54, a Teamster and private sanitation worker detained last week after decades in the country. Advocates say that Garcia Vasquez was working toward a green card, helped by the fact that his wife and three of his children are U.S. citizens.
ICE says Garcia Vasquez has run out of options.
We wrote here about Amanda Guerra-Morales, 33, the Guatemalan immigrant who sought sanctuary with her three children at Holyrood Episcopal Church-Iglesia Santa Cruz in August. Guerra-Morales, who fled threats of deadly violence in 2004, was told by ICE to buy a ticket for Guatemala earlier this summer.
Guerra-Morales asked ICE for a stay of removal, but according to her lawyer, Geoff Kagan-Trenchard, the agency said in a phone call last week that it would deny the request. Kagan-Trenchard says he still plans to push for a “reasonable fear interview,” among other tactics.
What can embattled immigrants like Guerra-Morales expect?
“One of the most difficult things about practicing immigration law under Trump is that there’s not really a typical situation anymore,” says Kagan-Trenchard, referring to President Donald Trump’s expanded guidance on who ICE should be targeting.
Church sanctuary cases are particularly tricky, though, given ICE’s policy on avoiding “sensitive locations.” A woman in the country illegally, for example, was granted temporary relief in Denver after spending months in a church this spring.
Military equipment on New York streets
In another reversal of one of President Barack Obama’s initiatives, Trump on Monday issued a page-long executive order revoking Obama’s ban on transferring certain military equipment to police departments.
The long-standing federal program had drawn scrutiny after high-profile protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, where officers in body armor and military-style vehicles faced off against demonstrators.
But with Trump’s action, local cops can now resume receipt of armored vehicles with ballistic protection, weaponized aircraft, and grenade launchers, among other equipment.
The NYPD did not respond to a request about any potential plans to nab new equipment. But the program has been a boon to the NYPD in the past, including items valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars: armored trucks, mortar carriers and night vision sights.
The NYPD has an arsenal of heavy equipment, given its anti-terrorism mandate. But it doesn’t disclose information about all of its items, which a City Council bill called the POST Act sponsored by Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Vanessa Gibson is attempting to change. That legislation would require some disclosure about certain surveillance appliances, such as X-ray vans that can peer through walls. The NYPD has opposed that legislation, but advocates are trying to build support within and outside the council and work with the NYPD to address their concerns.
Take to the sea
Mayor Bill de Blasio followed through on his election-year promise to get a city ferry system up and running, a fourth branch of which opened in Queens this week.
It has been an interesting experiment for the proud admiral, who can point to greater-than-anticipated ridership. For those who live and work near ferry docks, it certainly beats the underground hustle with the harried MTA.
The young system has had some struggles, such as delays and packed boats on the Rockaway routes on weekends. Routes have different popularities at different times: the long trips to the Rockaways and Brooklyn, for example, have had just over a third of the average monthly ridership of the quicker routes across the East River.
Mostly, the 150-passenger boats can never take a significant number of straphangers off the crowded trains: A single subway car can hold the capacity of a whole ferry. Three larger ferries are expected next year, but still only carry 250.
More routes will roll out next year reaching other parts of Manhattan and the Bronx. An Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman says to expect those in spring or summer. Until then, try out the existing lines for yourself before the on-deck experience gets icy.