Troy, New York – Today, organizations from across New York State – including the Abolish ICE NY-NJ Coalition, Troy Sanctuary, Troy 4 Black Lives, NYS Jails Justice Network, and the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement – are holding a march and rally outside of Rensselaer County Jail. The intent of the march and rally are to bring attention to the abusive conditions in the jail and to demand an end to Rensselaer County’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the passage of the NY Dignity Not Detention Act this legislative cycle. The march and rally will feature speakers from local and statewide organizations, including people formerly imprisoned in the jail.

“ICE’s harmful practices of separating families and targeting immigrant communities has always been unacceptable, and they must be abolished immediately,” said State Senator Julia Salazar, Dignity Not Detention’s sponsor. “The federal administration continues to allow ICE to run rampant with unchecked authority and detain people in deteriorating conditions, like at the Rensselaer County Jail. The Dignity Not Detention Act must be passed for New York to take a stand on the ongoing crisis of immigrant detention in our state, and to begin to bring justice to the families who have fallen victim to ICE’s abusive tactics and criminalization.” If passed this legislative cycle,  the New York Dignity Not Detention Act would require all government entities across the state to terminate all existing ICE contracts. 

Rensselaer County’s 287g agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and ICE, the only one of its kind in New York, deputizes the local sheriff’s department to act on behalf of ICE to target immigrants for criminalization. “I was pulled over for a traffic violation in Rensselaer County several years ago, which resulted in me being detained at an ICE facility for three months,” said Dalila Yeend, member of Columbia County Sanctuary Movement. “I was separated from my two minor children. We still suffer the aftermath of this ordeal. The 287g contract with Rensselaer County is destroying people’s lives. This contract needs to end immediately.” 

After being detained by ICE, criminalized immigrants, along with hundreds of other Black, Brown, and poor New Yorkers, experience brutal conditions while locked in county jails. At Rensselaer County Jail in particular, a 2021 civil rights complaint highlighted a history of abuse, neglect, and unsanitary conditions including clogged toilets, inoperable sinks, and denial of showers and sanitary pads. Ms. Q, an asylum seeker who was incarcerated at Rensselaer County Jail and a member of the Abolish ICE New York-New Jersey Coalition, said: “Being locked up at Rensselaer County jail was the worst experience I had to face besides my childhood trauma. Jails like Rensselaer need to be shut down immediately, because what they do on the inside is inhumane for anyone. I’m glad to be part of a coalition that not only helped me fight while I was detained but is also helping many more who are in the same position I was before.” 

The inhumane conditions inside of Rensselaer County Jail are not unique or isolated, but rather emblematic of the larger crisis of criminalization and incarceration. Local counties are incentivized to continue their investment in jailing through collaborations like the 287g contract. “In communities where a 287g agreement is implemented, there is an increase in criminalization,” said Aileen Javier of Troy Sanctuary. “Any police encounter could result in undocumented immigrants being put in jail and deported. 287g should be terminated in Rensselaer County.” To date, there are approximately 83 facilities capable of housing immigrants for ICE in New York State, and ICE is actively seeking to expand immigrant detention around New York. As counties are able to bring in federal dollars from agreements like ICE contacts, they are more likely to expand their overall capacity and maintain the practice of tearing loved ones away from each other, caging New Yorkers in county jail facilities, and furthering the United States’ racist imperialist imprisonment and deportation machines. 

“We demand dignity and not detention as well as human rights for all people incarcerated in Rensselaer County” said Amani Olugbala from Troy 4 Black Lives. “There is a war on Black and Brown bodies; the collaboration between ICE and Rensselaer County is another example of white supremacist and patriarchal thinking used to violate the human rights of Black and Brown people, poor people, anyone that is not white cis-heterosexual, abled, upper class and male identified. Further, this partnership has dire consequences for the city of Troy. It divides communities, makes it harder for people to access public health services, increases violence and makes everyone less safe.”

Today’s mobilization represents a broad coalition that fundamentally believes in putting an end to incarceration and immigration detention. In the words of Tania Mattos, founding member of Abolish ICE NY-NJ, “From Rensselaer County Jail to Orange County Jail to New York City, we are calling for New York State counties to stop making money off ICE contracts and pass the NY Dignity Not Detention bill. New York must be the seventh state to pass legislation to ICE detention.”