Republicans Seek Restraining Order to Stop NYC From Dumping Files of the Undocumented

Two Staten Island lawmakers have sued the city to get an injunction against Bill de Blasio's plan for purging the records of the municipal identification program.

Assemblyman Ronald Castorina, left, and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, right.
Assemblyman Ronald Castorina, left, and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, right. Will Bredderman/Observer

A pair of Staten Island GOP lawmakers have lodged a lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to prevent him from purging the records of his municipal identification program at the end of the year—records believed to contain the information of thousands of undocumented immigrants, and which advocates fear could wind up in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump.

One week after announcing they were exploring the option of requesting a judicial injunction, Assemblyman Ronald Castorina and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis filed a brief against the city, arguing that expunging the files of the IDNYC program would violate the state’s Freedom of Information Law—which explicitly forbids the destruction of documents “with intent to prevent public inspection”—and would overstep the city’s legal powers. De Blasio and his liberal allies created IDNYC to provide proof of identity to individuals lacking other forms of government paperwork, and the City Council deliberately wrote a legislative trap door into the bill that established the program to grant the city the right to purge the files at the end of 2016 should a deportation-happy regime assume power in Washington.

“The mayor and the Council speaker are intent on the destruction of all of the records connected to the IDNYC programs. The records, we feel, are very pertinent and important to governmental purposes and this act in fact would violate FOIL and the public officer’s law,” said Castorina at a press conference outside the Richmond County Courthouse, recalling Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s defiant response to the threat of legal action last week. “We asked for the speaker and the mayor not to do it, and the speaker’s response was ‘go ahead and sue us.’ So the speaker invited this litigation, and therefore, just by virtue of the fact that the invitation, that the litigation was invited, there should be a complete block on this information from being destroyed, pending a hearing and whatever motions and or proceedings that we will present to the Supreme Court here in Richmond County.”

The two state legislators, both members of the Assembly’s Committee on Banking, reiterated the concerns they voiced a week ago: that wiping the IDNYC records could prevent the federal government from tracking people who used one of the city-issued cards to open a bank account and subsequently employed that account for illicit or terroristic purposes.

“I think this is something that poses a risk, if a criminal investigation were to occur, and we need to see how this identification was obtained, we need to be able to have the back-up records,” Malliotakis, the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants, warned. “You can’t issue government identification to individuals and then destroy all the documents, so you don’t know who you gave them to, or how they obtained them.”

Castorina was a robust backer of Trump’s presidential bid, while Malliotakis chaired Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign in New York, then endorsed the nominee after her favored candidate dropped out. The South Shore assemblyman insisted that his concern was solely with the security of the city and the integrity of its banks, and that he did not support mass deportations, nor believe the incoming would seek to requisition the IDNYC records for that purpose.

“This is not an immigration issue,” he said. “There is reason for anyone to be worried or concerned at the present time of any type of deportation, or any issue relating to immigration reform.”

During much of his campaign, Trump said he intended to create a deportation force to remove all 11 million foreign nationals currently residing in the United States without formal paperwork. He has since indicated he will look first to remove some three million he believes are guilty of serious crimes, then consider what to do about the remainder.

De Blasio reiterated his intention to trash the records when a reporter mentioned the lawsuit at an unrelated press conference at One Police Plaza this morning.

“As I’ve said, we are very clear, if you look at the original legislation, which is the law of this city, it was quite clear that we were not, we are not going to allow ourselves to be in a situation where those records would be turned over to the federal government,” he said. “The whole idea of IDNYC was to give people the opportunity in this city to live a better life for themselves in this city.”

In a statement sent to the Observer, Mark-Viverito’s office singled out Malliotakis—who has often sparred with the speaker—for criticism, highlighting that she belongs to the largely powerless Republican minority in the Assembly.

“It’s sad but not surprising that backbench Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis is more interested in filing ridiculous lawsuits than she is in serving New Yorkers—900,000 of whom have already signed up for IDNYCs,” said spokeswoman Robin Levine.

Updated to include comment from Mark-Viverito’s office.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

Republicans Seek Restraining Order to Stop NYC From Dumping Files of the Undocumented