Soccer is a game of teamwork, and on a Staten Island field it's creating some unlikely teammates: New York City police officers and undocumented immigrants.
"We don't ask questions. You know, you could be a full-fledged citizen or just crossed the border — it doesn't matter," NYPD Detective Thomas Delacy said. "We're here to play ball, and not ask questions."
The partnership is the brainchild of Staten Island's second-highest ranking police officer, Deputy Chief Donna Jones, and advocates for the borough's growing immigrant community.
The goal is for both sides to better understand each other, an idea that has special meaning on Staten Island, the only city borough that voted for President Trump, who is taking a hard-line toward undocumented immigrants.
"It's good what they're doing, because they're making our community come and have fun," player Edwin Guzman said.
The program is an extension of the NYPD's community policing strategy, which believes officers and communities that trust each other help to make neighborhoods safer.
It also reflects New York's status as a "sanctuary city," which forbids NYPD officers from asking about immigration status, a policy meant to encourage the undocumented to report crimes and assist investigators.
"We want to know you, and we want you to feel comfortable to come to us," Delacy said.
Despite the rain and cold, there was plenty of interest in getting on the field for the group's first weekly practice this week.
Not all of the participating immigrants are undocumented, but many are, including attorney Cesar Vargas, the first immigrant without legal status to practice law in New York.
"When we talk about, 'Hey, come to this town hall meeting,' people are reluctant because, obviously, they have a million things to do with their own lives. But when it comes to playing soccer," Vargas said. "It's much more receptive, and people want to come with their families, want to come with their friends."
"Talk each other — I think it's very good to get a relationship with them. It's nothing to be afraid of," player Claudio Cuenca said.
The group is still looking for more players to fill out eight teams, made up of police officers and immigrants, who will play in an all-day tournament scheduled to be held next month.