De Blasio’s Top Republican Rival Blasts NYC’s Plans to Delete Files on the Undocumented

Paul Massey.

Paul Massey. Paul Massey/Massey fo

Real estate executive Paul Massey, the deepest-pocketed of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s GOP opponents, has endorsed the lawsuit two Staten Island Republican lawmakers have brought against the city to prevent it from following through on plans to expunge the records of the city’s municipal identification program—records believed to contain the personal information of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The announcement came in a letter Massey penned to the Observer, which followed up on a brief interview he granted late last month in which he voiced support for New York’s “sanctuary city” statutes. These rules bar the NYPD and Department of Corrections from honoring requests by federal immigration authorities that they detain undocumented individuals, except in select circumstances, and are now the target of an executive order from President Donald Trump that seeks to sever federal funding for noncompliant municipalities.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Assemblyman Ronald Castorina have insisted their suit to stop de Blasio from wiping the IDNYC program’s files has little to do with immigration, and stems mainly from concern that such a data purge could interfere with a future criminal investigation.

“Cardholders almost certainly include tens of thousands of people living in the country illegally,” Massey’s missive reads. “After carefully considering the arguments and implications of the mayor’s threatened action, both pro and con, I can now easily say I support the Castorina-Malliotakis lawsuit. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who cares about the security of New Yorkers.”

The Cushman & Wakefield sales president evoked a hypothetical scenario the state lawmakers have cited repeatedly in their public appearances around the case.

“Public safety has to come first, especially here. If, God forbid, a terrorist cell used IDNYC to better blend into the city, like the 9/11 terrorists did with state-issued driver’s licenses, the information held by the de Blasio administration could be crucial toward investigating and apprehending them,” the letter reads. “Destroying that information would be criminal.”

The legislation that established the IDNYC initiative empowered the city to delete at the end of 2016 its entire electronic cache of scanned documents that program participants submitted with their applications. The announced purpose of this memory hole clause was to prevent a potential deportation-happy presidential administration from requisitioning the files and using them to track down people lacking proper paperwork.

Castorina and Malliotakis filed a Freedom of Information Act request for those records in December, and a judge issued a restraining order to prevent the city from dumping them. In response, the de Blasio administration announced it would no longer store images of application materials.

The mayor has repeatedly noted that several of his predecessors, including GOP ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, refused to help federal officials track down and expel nonviolent foreign nationals. It was a point Massey made as well, as he again promised his policies would follow the same lines.

“New York has always been a city of immigrants and it will remain one under a Massey Administration. We will continue to care for all New Yorkers, regardless of background, religion, or immigration status, as has been the case for decades under both Republican and Democratic mayors,” the candidate wrote. “My administration has no interest in building walls around New York, but it will employ common sense every time where public safety is concerned.”

Massey has so far distanced himself from many of Trump’s positions, and has told audiences that he wrote in former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s name for president rather than cast his ballot for either the GOP nominee or for Hillary Clinton.

He faces Jets defensive lineman-turned-minister Michael Faulkner in the September primary, potentially along with Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich and/or supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis. Any Republican candidate will face a steep slope in the November general election, thanks to the Democrats’ massive enrollment advantage.

Read the entire text of the letter below:

To the Editor:

I very much enjoyed meeting New York Observer reporter Madina Toure following a recent speech I gave in Manhattan.

While our conversation was brief—it took place in a hectic, jam-packed ballroom—I promised to follow up with the Observer about an ongoing lawsuit filed by two Staten Island State Assembly members, Ronald Castorina and Nicole Malliotakis.

The suit would prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio from destroying hundreds of thousands of records collected for his municipal I.D. card program. Cardholders almost certainly include tens of thousands of people living in the country illegally. After carefully considering the arguments and implications of the mayor’s threatened action, both pro and con, I can now easily say I support the Castorina-Malliotakis lawsuit. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who cares about the security of New Yorkers.

Public safety has to come first, especially here. If, God forbid, a terrorist cell used IDNYC to better blend into the city, like the 9/11 terrorists did with state-issued driver’s licenses, the information held by the de Blasio administration could be crucial toward investigating and apprehending them. Destroying that information would be criminal.

That said, New York has always been a city of immigrants and it will remain one under a Massey Administration. We will continue to care for all New Yorkers, regardless of background, religion, or immigration status, as has been the case for decades under both Republican and Democratic mayors.

My administration has no interest in building walls around New York, but it will employ common sense every time where public safety is concerned.

Sincerely,

Paul Massey

Madina Toure contributed reporting to this story.

De Blasio’s Top Republican Rival Blasts NYC’s Plans to Delete Files on the Undocumented