Recent protests by pro-immigrant activists in New York City have called attention to the presence of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in the Starrett-Lehigh building in Manhattan that houses one of EPIP’s physical offices. While EPIP is a virtual organization, with employees across the country, we are members of the Centre for Social Innovation and use the offices in Starrett-Lehigh provided through that membership as a part-time workspace for one New York-area employee and one consultant. Until these recent actions, we were unaware that an ICE office was also in the building.
In response to demands that they evict ICE from the property, building owner RXR Realty has stated that they cannot legally evict any tenant in good standing. They, and the Centre for Social Innovation, have also emphasized that the office in question belongs to the Homeland Security Investigations division of ICE, which has not been responsible for any of the recent detentions and family separations of undocumented immigrants. While both of these statements may be true, we at EPIP feel that we must take action in support of and solidarity with the immigrant communities to whom these distinctions must seem small in the face of greater injustices, including the recent raid in Mississippi that saw nearly 700 migrants torn from their communities.
In the interests of full transparency, EPIP has long considered leaving the Starrett-Lehigh building as part of our overall commitment to a virtual workforce and culture, and are embracing this opportunity to operationalize our values and dedication to justice. As such, EPIP will not be renewing our sublease at the Starrett-Lehigh building and is committed to leaving the space this fall. We also commit to fully investigating any future physical space we lease to ensure that it does not support unjust actions or entities. Finally, we pledge that both our operations and our programming will continue to work in support of our vision of a world where people of all identities can live full and prosperous lives, supported by a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and effective philanthropic sector.
For more information about how philanthropy can support the rights of immigrants and refugees, visit Grantmakers Concerned with Refugees and Immigrants (GCIR), whose resources include a philanthropic primer on divesting from immigrant detention.
Yours in Service,
Interim Executive Director, EPIP