Video: Eritrean Abraham Paulos Facing Trump Deportation Speaks Out

Fast Forward Video to 44 Minutes Time Mark for the Interview 


Criminalization & Trump’s ICE Raids: Two Immigrant Rights Organizers Facing Deportation Speak Out | Feb 14, 2017


The Department of Homeland Security is saying the number of immigrants arrested over the past week has risen to 680. Raids were reported in at 11 states, including California, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin. To talk more about who is being targeted, we are joined by two prominent immigrant rights advocates in New York. Both of them are also immigrants whose criminal records put them at risk of deportation. Abraham Paulos is executive director of Families for Freedom. Ravi Ragbir is executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. Ragbir faces deportation when he goes to his ICE check-in on March 9.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Abraham Paulos, tell us your story. You’re also worried about possible deportation as a result of your past history.


ABRAHAM PAULOS: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say worried. I’m not scared about all that. I mean, I think that I came here in 1981 from Sudan. I’m Eritrean. There was a war happening there. And I actually came to the United States to another war called the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war on poverty, particularly during the ’90s, which—that was the last time that immigration laws had actually passed in this country, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and also the Anti terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. So, as much as there is a lot of worry around the priorities or what have you, I just really want to remind people that the laws haven’t changed. And when they did change, it was under a Clinton administration, that continues to grow. So, George Bush, at his time of presidency, had also deported more people than any other president before. Right? And then Obama, and we’ll see how Donald Trump does.


And so, essentially, you know, in 2003, I went for my citizenship, but because of my arrest, I was denied. But it was also a couple of weeks after Department of Homeland Security was, you know, sort of created. And so, what you’re seeing is this law enforcement agency, particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement, continuing to grow. It really started in the ’80s and ’90s. And so, that’s essentially my story. I mean, more recently, about six, seven years ago, I got picked up in Brooklyn for a robbery that I physically couldn’t have done, but NYPD, bang-up job they do in the city, and I ended up in Rikers. And it was in Rikers that I had found out that ICE had an office in Rikers and that it was best that I leave. And that’s where Families for Freedom found me.


AMY GOODMAN: And explain that and the battle that was waged around ICE being at Rikers, what that means, that you can have two people who committed or didn’t commit a crime, because you can be at Rikers without even being convicted.




Eritrean Abraham Paulos Facing Trump Deportation Speaks Out


AMY GOODMAN: One gets out and goes home. They serve the same amount of time there. The other one is picked up by ICE and taken away.


ABRAHAM PAULOS: Absolutely. And this has been the main way that New Yorkers have been getting deported. Right? And so, New Yorkers have been getting deported by the planeloads—pardon the pun. And usually it was through a detainer. There was also another program called Secure Communities, which is a fingerprint-sharing program that basically takes every one citizen and checks him against an immigration database. If you get a so-called hit, a detainer comes out, which is essentially a hold, that says anyone who’s held as foreign-born or a noncitizen in Rikers will be held for immigration to come pick up and start their deportation process. I just also want to like make clear that in New York, most New Yorkers who have gotten deported, their process has started with the NYPD.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What about this issue of how the city administration and the police department is dealing with this issue? How was it under Mayor Bloomberg, and how has it changed, if at all, under Mayor de Blasio?


ABRAHAM PAULOS: Well, I mean, under Mayor Bloomberg, Executive Order 42 was passed, and this was sort of an amendment for Executive Order 34. And essentially what it was, was just basically regulating city agencies and their data sharing or information sharing, or collecting confidential information, which immigration status actually is. So, under Bloomberg, I mean, really, what you’re starting to see is that the NYPD—I mean, New York City is just really becoming a police state. But the NYPD is growing and growing. I mean, last year, we had 1,300 new police officers. The budget for the NYPD is around what? $75 billion. The budget for education in New York City is around what? $29 billion. And so what you’re seeing is that, particularly under de Blasio, you’re starting to see that no one is really standing up to the NYPD. And you can see this under the NYC ID, in which—that NYPD made sure that they wanted to be in the room to—so that they would accept this ID or not. And so, I think that, in general, we’re seeing more of the same, and nothing has really changed.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the city has said that the NYC ID information is private information, right?




JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That it’s not going to be shared with other—with law enforcement agencies.


ABRAHAM PAULOS: That’s not necessarily true, right? So, the city—I mean, the city says a lot of things, first of all. Right? And at first, they said that they needed to collect the records or keep the records, but that’s what NYPD said. And now they’re saying they don’t need to do it. But what probably will not be destroyed are people’s names, addresses and photos. Outside of that, what more do you need?


ABRAHAM PAULOS: Which they should have never collected in the first place. That’s what I’m trying to say, Ravi. You know what I mean? Like, if they’re going to say, “Oh, we need this,” and the NYPD, you know, says, “We need this,” and then all of a sudden you don’t need it, that sounds like somebody made a mistake.


AMY GOODMAN: Talking about immigration, Abraham, you are affected not only by the immigrant roundups and the people that are dealing with this, but also the Muslim ban.


ABRAHAM PAULOS: Well, I mean, yeah, I was born in an Islamic country. I mean, I think that, you know, this is about race, you know, just in general. I think we just really need to call it for what it is. We’re living under white supremacy, and we’ve been living under white supremacy for hundreds of years. Like Donald Trump is not the first white supremacist to sort of be president. We had 43 before, and some of them owned slaves. And so I think that—


AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have 10 seconds. You’re wearing a T-shirt that says “deportee.” Do you expect to be deported?


ABRAHAM PAULOS: I don’t—you know, I’m not afraid. I just want to put that out there. And I don’t think that our communities should be afraid of this, because this is, you know, a situation in which we’ve been dealing with for a long time.


AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Abraham Paulos is head of Families for Freedom. And Ravi Ragbir is with the—head of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, who faces deportation when he goes to his ICE check-in March 9th. We will follow his story.