In the new, publicly subsidized building at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa, you’ll find a luxury Westin Hotel, the upscale restaurant Patina 250, a KeyBank branch, and the corporate headquarters of Delaware North, the multi-billion-dollar concessions company owned by Buffalo power broker Jeremy Jacobs and his family.
You’ll also find (though there’s no sign for it outside) local offices for ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency tasked with hunting down and deporting undocumented immigrants.
In addition to hosting ICE in his corporate headquarters, Delaware North chairman Jeremy Jacobs—net worth $4 billion—is the largest local donor to Donald Trump as well as the chairman of the UB Council, the governing body of the State University of New York at Buffalo, where 17 percent of the student body comes from other countries. Jacobs also sits on the board of the trustees of the UB Foundation, which controls UB’s endowment, and is the namesake of UB’s new medical school, the building housing the school of management, and its “executive development center” on Delaware Avenue.
The Jacobs family’s positions of influence at UB and backing of the Trump deportation machine undermines UB President Satish Tripathi’s commitment to remaining “a welcoming campus for students, faculty and visitors from across the globe.”
Now that the Trump administration’s attack on immigrants is kicking into its next phase with the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, upon which many UB students rely, Buffalo’s commitment to its immigrant community has come into even starker conflict with the politics of its wealthiest local family.
Delaware North and Trump’s deportation machine
Delaware North, the Jacobs family business, has several overlaps with the Trump administration and the government forces implementing the president’s anti-immigrant policies.
ICE and the Delaware North building: This spring, ICE moved its local offices into Delaware North’s building at 250 Delaware Ave, consummating a deal made in late 2014.
The seventh floor of Delaware North’s headquarters is home to ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arm, which has processed many of the more than 1,000 deportations that have been ordered this year alone in Batavia and Buffalo immigration courts.
Ironically, the Delaware North building now housing ICE’s deportation infrastructure was significantly financed by immigrants. Uniland, the developer that built the building, obtained $21 million of the project’s $110 million cost through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, which grants green cards to wealthy foreigners in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in local businesses.
The building was also publicly subsidized. Delaware North and Uniland received $10.8 million in tax breaks through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for the project.
Jacobs family donated more to Trump than anyone in Western New York: Members of the Jacobs family and businesses that they control donated at least $167,700 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, his joint fundraising committee, and his inauguration committee.
Jeremy Jacobs Sr., the chairman of Delaware North Companies, donated the maximum $2,700 to Trump’s campaign committee, $100,000 to the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee, and $5,000 to Trump for America, the president’s inauguration committee.
Jeremy Jacobs Jr. and Louis Jacobs, Delaware North’s co-CEOs, each donated $5,000 to Trump for America, as did Charles Jacobs, CEO of the Delaware North subsidiary Boston Holdings, which owns the Boston Bruins National Hockey League Team.
Delaware North Companies, Inc. and its subsidiary Patina Restaurant Group each donated $5,000 to Trump for America.
Seven other members of the Jacobs family each donated $5,000 to Trump for America.
The Jacobs family and corporate donations to Trump for America presumably all came during the Trump fundraiser that Jacobs hosted at the Delaware North Building in January.
Corporate attorney William Hochul targeted immigrants and street crime: In October 2016, Delaware North hired former US Attorney William Hochul, husband of New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, as the corporation’s general counsel.
The week before he was hired at Delaware North, Hochul led the largest workplace immigration raid under the Obama administration as ICE raided four Mexican restaurants, arresting three managers and 22 workers for violating immigration laws.
As US Attorney for the Western District of New York, Hochul turned the focus of his organized crime task force toward aggressive prosecution of drugs and street crime using federal racketeering laws and away from sophisticated organized crime (including corporate crime—unlike Manhattan’s Preet Bharara, Hochul showed little interest throughout his tenure in pursuing these prosecutions). Coincidentally, Hochul is now working for a family that once owned a corporate conglomerate, Emprise, that was convicted of federal racketeering charges in the 1970s. Since that conviction, the Jacobs family business has made it a practice to hire former federal prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, ostensibly to help ensure compliance with the law.
Hochul has also relied heavily on stings orchestrated by paid federal informants in terrorism cases. This practice has been frequently criticized as amounting to entrapment of people who would not have pursued crimes without the government’s inducement. The individuals ensnared in these prosecutions are often people of color and immigrants.
William Hochul is married to Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who, as Erie County Clerk, campaigned on a vow to refuse to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in defiance of a plan by then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. Hochul and other opponents of Spitzer’s plan ultimately defeated it.
Jacobs and University at Buffalo
The Jacobs family are major donors to and have tremendous influence over the University at Buffalo.
Jeremy Jacobs Sr. has served on the University at Buffalo Council since 1997 and has been its chairman since 1998. The UB Council is the governing body at the University at Buffalo, nominating UB’s president for approval by the SUNY trustees and overseeing and advising the president and senior officers. According to UB, the council’s responsibilities include “reviewing all major plans and activities of the university” and “making recommendations and regulations for the benefit of the university in matters of community and alumni relations.”
Jacobs Sr. is also an emeritus trustee at the University at Buffalo Foundation, possibly in violation of SUNY guidelines, which specify that “no members of the Campus Council may serve on the Foundation Board or the governance body of any Affiliate.” In fact, for the majority of years since 2001, either Jacobs or his son, Jeremy Jr., has sat on the board of the private UB Foundation, which controls the University at Buffalo’s $1 billion endowment as well as many university properties, including the $375 million new medical school bearing Jacobs’s name on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Jacobs’s support for Donald Trump, who rode to election on rhetoric demonizing and attacking immigrants and people of color, creates a major conflict with his influential governance and fiduciary roles at the University at Buffalo, where he has a duty to students.
According to SUNY data, around 5,000 of UB’s students—17 percent of the student body—are international students. One hundred twenty-two students at UB are from countries named in the Muslim ban that Trump has repeatedly attempted to impose. Many students are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program terminated by Trump this week.
UB President Satish Tripathi, himself an immigrant, has pledged that “UB is a welcoming campus for students, faculty and visitors from across the globe, and is committed to remaining so.” UB professes to believe that “the diversity and global perspectives and experiences of our university community members…are among our most important institutional strengths and vital to our success.” The university has been quiet on how it squares this belief with the anti-immigrant spending and deportation profiteering of its major donor and council chairman.
UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, an hour before about 100 protestors demonstrated in front of the Delaware North office to protest the Trump administration’s cancelation of the DACA prgram, Glen White, senior manager of corporate communications for Delaware North sent this email to The Public:
Please see below a statement from Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs:
“Our country was built on the principles of acceptance and compassion. I am fortunate that our borders were open to dreamers, like my grandparents, whose lives were spared the horrors of the Holocaust. We hope for a resolution that enables and encourages dreamers to continue their many contributions to our universities, our companies, and our social diversity.”
In addition, please be aware that Delaware North is not the owner of The Delaware North Building and does not determine the leasing of other space in the building. Also, it should be noted that Delaware North is a global company with a variety of businesses involving various levels of government and is therefore active in the political process with both major U.S. political parties.
Rob Galbraith is senior research analyst for the Public Acountability Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog research group focused on corporate and government accountability.