New York Republicans Fight de Blasio Shred-Fest

Lawsuit filed to prevent mayor from destroying records on city ID cards given to illegal immigrants

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 01 Feb 2017 at 7:50 AM

Lawyers on Wednesday will submit final written arguments in a fight over whether New York City can destroy records used to obtain city identification cards that Mayor Bill de Blasio touted as a way to support illegal immigrants.

The IDNYC cards are available to any city resident, but officials say many of the 988,066 people who have received them are illegal immigrants, who cannot obtain New York State driver’s licenses. The cards allow residents to access city benefits and get free admission to city museums.

“They’re destroying the documents that document the undocumented.”

In a panic over the election of President Donald Trump, however, the city announced on Dec. 7 that it would destroy its records as a preemptive move in case the new administration tried to get the records to aid deportation efforts.

“Our credibility is at stake with the immigrant communities that we work with,” New Immigrant Community Empowerment Executive Director Manny Castro told The New York Times.

That prompted Ronald Castorina Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis, a pair of Republican State Assembly members from Staten Island, to file a Freedom of Information Act request and then a lawsuit. A judge temporarily ordered the city not to destroy the documents while lawyers argue the case. Those records include the documents that illegal immigrants used into order to obtain IDNYC cards.

“They’re destroying the documents that document the undocumented,” said Jeff Alfano, a lawyer representing the lawmakers.

Alfano said his clients became concerned after the state’s banking superintendent encouraged state-licensed banks to accept IDNYC cards as valid identification. He said his clients are not trying to obtain any personal information. But they would like to see the home countries of card holders and the documentation they offered to obtain the cards, he said.

Documents accepted by the city included expired passports and expired military IDs — including even those  from foreign countries.

“They want to at least be able to do some sort of study to see where these people are coming from and what ID they are using,” Alfano said. “You should want to know who you’re giving access to the banking system.”

Alfano over the weekend sent a letter to members of Congress asking for a congressional probe.

“A former Democratic Commissioner to New York City’s Board of Elections candidly admitted the IDNYC program opens the gates to massive voter fraud,” he wrote. “His remarks to an undercover investigative journalist sparked an inquiry by New York State investigators.”

City lawyers argue that the state law does not require New York City to turn over the records sought by the legislators.

After the city denied the FOIA request, Castorina and Malliotakis got a temporary restraining order. An appellate court later kept the order in place, preventing the city from destroying records.

"New York City, despite its size, still has to act within the statutory framework of New York State," Alfano said.

With the deadline now having arrived to submit final arguments, Alfano said he worries the judge might issue a quick ruling, giving the city a chance to immediately destroy the documents.

"There's a real possibility that the judge rules against us and the city could delete the information before we ever get to the appeals court," Alfano said.

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