Photo: Syed Haq. Jason Epting outside the 40th Precinct station house in December.

Struggles with NYPD, ICE will continue despite new president, says local group

Despite the relief many South Bronxites are feeling after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, a local group believes defunding the police and protecting undocumented immigrants will remain a concern, even under a new administration.

Mott Haven Families, which residents formed after the NYPD’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in Port Morris on June 4, has called for defunding the police, abolishing ICE, and holding outgoing President Donald Trump accountable for what they say are his unlawful actions.

Yajaira Saavedra, co-owner of La Morada restaurant, and an active member of the group, is protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) legislation. One of the requirements is that the recipient is under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Although Saavedra qualifies for that protection, her parents do not. As a result, they do not get the same benefits as she does, such as a work permit.

Although the President-elect has promised to re-instate DACA, Saavedra worries it won’t go far enough to provide immediate relief for her parents. Additionally, the new administration will have to prove it is committed to improving ethical standards in the government’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.

”I feel like we still need better immigration legislation that would include people from all different types of backgrounds and abilities,” said Saavedra, adding that she is skeptical a Biden administration will improve matters for immigrants in any profound way.

“They’re all politicians,” she said. “One thing is what they promise and another thing is what they do.”

Another member of the group, Jason Epting, believes Biden’s stance against defunding the police goes against the radical policy change that Mott Haven Families calls for in rallies in front of the 40th precinct every Sunday. But given the alternative, Epting says, he had no choice. 

“Sometimes voting for a president may not have any impact on our people,” said Epting. “But this last time it definitely did, with kids being in cages, ICE coming all out – so we definitely had to get rid of Trump.”

Epting says he expects the Biden administration to treat all people fairly, but he will demand that local elected officials stay more engaged in the neighborhood.

“We’re going to go forward with educating our community about who our local politicians are and where they stand,” he said. 

Amanda Septimo, Assembly member-elect for the 84th district says that Mayor de Blasio has the political leverage to take measures to rein in the NYPD, even if the new presidential administration balks at defunding police.

“That power lies with the city right now,” said Septimo “We don’t have to rely on the federal administration for these things.”

Biden’s promise to ramp up de-escalation training for police is helpful, said Septimo, but isn’t an adequate alternative to reducing funding for NYPD.

“We don’t have to live in this world with a scarcity model, where you have to choose,” she said.

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