Are Police Checking Immigration Status at Sunset Park Subway Station?

(Photo via World Journal)

In the less than two weeks since he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump has signed several executive orders related to immigration and brought fear to many undocumented immigrants in New York City. Many rumors started to spread on social media, among them: that some intercity buses run by Chinese in New York were stopped by law enforcement in other states to check the passengers’ immigration status, that some green card applications were frozen, and that birthright citizenship will be repealed. All of these have proved false. The newest one to emerge over the past few days is that the police have set up a table at the entrance of the subway station at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street in Brooklyn to check immigration status. The New York Police Department said on Feb. 1 that this is also false.

A message about police checking immigration status at the Eighth Avenue subway station has been broadly circulating on WeChat, the most popular social media platform among Chinese. Many people reposted the message. But the NYPD said the police officers where there only to check the passengers’ backpacks, not immigration status. And the agency has not received any instruction from the government to check immigration status. Furthermore, according to local law, police are banned from inquiring about people’s immigration status. The NYPD calls for New Yorkers to remain calm and not to believe or spread rumors.

On the afternoon of Jan. 30, a Chinese living in Brooklyn posted a message on WeChat. “I have just seen police checking immigration status at the subway station located at Eighth Avenue and 62nd Street,” the message said. “If you don’t have proper documents, be really careful when going out of your house.”

The message was later reposted by many people. Some, when reposting, added their own headline such as “Even Sunset Park is not safe anymore?” And “Folks, be alert.”

“I was there when the inspection happened,” a person who wanted to remain anonymous said. “I came out of the subway station with two friends. When we saw the police, my friends immediately started to panic. One of them is undocumented. He worried that the police were there to answer the call of President Trump and to check immigration status. Otherwise, why did it happen to be us three who were stopped by the police for inspection? My friend then dashed away and tried to flee. The police called him to stop and chased after him. Eventually, the police only asked us to open our bags. We were let go without being asked about our immigration status when the police were certain that we didn’t carry any problematic stuff. I then told my friend, if you didn’t do anything wrong, don’t run. If you run away, police are more likely to think you are suspicious.”

Sue Liu, the community liaison of the 72nd Police Precinct, which covers the district around the subway station, confirmed to the World Journal that the police have been doing inspections at the subway station recently. But the actions were for the purpose of “terrorist attacks prevention.” All they meant to do was check big bags, not immigration status, and immigrants do not need to panic.

“I am here to assure you that the police haven’t received any order to check immigration status. We do our routine patrols. We only check the ID when we find someone is suspicious,” said Liu. “It is your human right to keep your own identity private. The police won’t breach it for no reason.”

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