Oct. 15, 2018 By Tara Law
Council Member Francisco Moya has been receiving letters from someone claiming to be part of a growing anti-immigrant group with dozens of members, including a “mole” inside City Hall.
The council member has received three to four letters from someone claiming to be a member of a secret group called “The Notre Dame Society” that apparently aims to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement deport undocumented immigrants, according to Ryan Sit, spokesperson for Moya.
The letters, the most recent of which was postmarked on Sept. 14, claim that the group is working to frighten undocumented immigrants, and that it has helped ICE arrest 58 immigrants so far.
The group’s name comes from the 1939 version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” in which Quasimodo cries out “Sanctuary, sanctuary!” The group apparently decided to use the word “sanctuary” to gesture to New York’s status as a sanctuary city, a policy which means that the city will not enforce federal immigration law.
The letters also claim that the group has roughly 130 members, or “Knights”, in places like Long Island, New Jersey, and Boston, including two so-called Knights in the New York City court system, one in Nassau County and two in Suffolk County.
It also claims to have a few lawyers and police officers working on its side, and call the alleged mole in City Hall its “secret weapon.”
Moya’s office said it appears that the inspiration for the letters was an op-ed the council member published in the New York Daily News in May.
In the piece, Moya strongly condemned a man who had been captured in a viral video ranting against Spanish speakers inside of a Manhattan restaurant.
Moya’s office, according to Sit, was not surprised by the letters, as the council member receives similar hate-filled letters about once a month.
“Unfortunately, it’s to be expected,” said Sit. “It happens when there’s an op-ed about immigration or racism.”
Although Moya’s office does not typically make such letters public, Sit said Moya is bringing the group’s letters forward because they reference vigilante-style actions against immigrants.
“I don’t want to give the author any more attention than I have to,” Moya said in a statement. “However, if there are anti-immigrant vigilantes in City Hall and the courts, they need to be identified and dealt with accordingly.”
Moya said it is unclear whether the letter-writer was a “dedicated troll” or an actual anti-immigrant vigilante, but he sharply criticized the author, calling him a “semi-literate wannabe ICE agent.”
“This display of nationalism is not patriotism. It’s naked xenophobia. It’s fear masquerading as intimidation. And I will not be cowed by them,” Moya said.
The NYPD said it is investigating the incident.