As the debate over what to do with the personal information of thousands of undocumented New Yorkers continues, the NYPD's top counterterrorism official sparred with Republican lawmakers Thursday, dismissing their claims that destroying data collected by the city's municipal ID program would increase the risk of a violent attack.
"In the course of two years, we have not seen New York City IDs surfacing in a rampage of terrorism threats or other matters," Department's Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said yesterday as he testified in State Supreme Court.
Miller testified as a witness in a case brought by Republican State Assembly members Ronald Castorina Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis. The lawmakers are suing to stop the destruction of ID users' application records, which Mayor de Blasio had ordered as a means of protecting undocumented New Yorkers from deportations proposed by President-elect Donald Trump. Plans to destroy the information were initially built into the ID program and were slated to take place by December 31s, but Castorina and Malliotakis's lawsuit has paused the process.
"You can't get on an airplane with it, you can't buy a drink with it, you can't get a passport with it," Miller said in court yesterday, according to the Daily News. Miller stressed that likelihood of potential terrorists using the IDs would be minimal. "They have their own driver's licenses, passports and visas," he told presiding judge Philip G. Minardo.
Castorina countered Miller's testimony by claiming the NYPD official is obliged to support Mayor de Blasio in his push to delete the IDNYC data in the wake of Trump's presidential win, and called his argument "political mumbo jumbo," the Times reports.
"American blood is at stake here," Castorina continued. "It only takes one 9/11. It only takes one Berlin bomber."
According to the Times, 1,029,618 people use IDNYC. Out of that total, 102 applications have proven to be fraudulent. In court Thursday, Miller stated that the Department has recorded only four cases of identity theft involving IDNYC. Additionally, Miller argued that keeping the application data in truth represents a greater risk to the public, opening up a potential trove of documents susceptible to hackers' attacks.
Created in 2014, the IDNYC program is intended to serve homeless, undocumented, and transgender New Yorkers who had previously struggled to obtain forms of valid identification. It is the largest of its kind in the nation, and the promise of security and confidentiality for undocumented applicants has been a hallmark of the program since its inception.
Now, immigrant rights' advocates fear the incoming Trump administration will use IDNYC data to locate and deport New Yorkers. Trump initially claimed he would create a "deportation force" to remove 11 million illegal residents, but more recently stated he would only send away two to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
The decision to write mandatory mass deletion of personal data into the municipal ID program was made in consultation with law enforcement, City Immigration Commissioner Nisha Agarwal told the News. If successful, the city will destroy records including of birth certificates, passports, leases, utility bills, and bank statements. Witness testimony in the case is scheduled to resume next week.