August 18, 2011
City Council Proposes New Immigration Bill
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Danny Dromm introduced legislation Wednesday that would stop the deportation of non-citizens with minor offences and dropped charges.
According to Assemblyman Francisco Moya, the legislation would save the City “up to $50 million a year while also protecting immigrants with no prior criminal record from unfair, lengthy detention periods.”
Currently, all inmates throughout theUnited Statesare fingerprinted according to the Federal Secure Communities practice.
“Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases,” the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) website states.
The website further states, “If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable due to a criminal conviction, ICE takes enforcement action – prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history, and other factors – as well as those who have repeatedly violated immigration laws.”
Council member Ruben Wills called the Federal Secure Communities a “flawed policy.”
"The current policy that has been forced down the throats of our city is flawed and in effect makes every NYPD officer a de facto employee of the federal immigration department,” he said. “Rounding up immigrants, many of whom are innocent and law abiding, disproportionately targets black and Latino New Yorkers and creates fear in our neighborhoods
Wills said this also “hurts the already fragile relationship between the police department and the many communities it is trying to serve.”
“As the home of Lady Liberty, the City of New York should not be in the business of trampling the constitutional rights of anyone - whether they are new to our city, or born and raised in one of our great boroughs," he noted.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers and agents assigned to Criminal Alien Program (CAP) in federal, state and local prisons and jails throughout the country screen inmates and place detainers on criminal aliens to process them for removal before they are released to the general public.
After the screening process and interviews, when required, ERO issues charging documents to formally begin proceedings to remove the criminal alien from theUnited States.
ICE would not offer any comment on the proposed legislation from the City Council.
“ICE does not comment on pending or proposed federal, state or local legislation,” said Luis Martinez, public affairs officer of ICE New York Field Office in an official statement.
Immigration advocates claim that the Secure Communities program leads to unjust deportation as there is no distinction between minor and serious offenders, and that it leads “ill-advised plead bargains.”
“The New York Department of Correction's honoring of ICE detainers irrespective of a person's criminal history pressures many immigrant clients into making hasty and ill advised plea bargains at arraignments that result in denial of immigration benefits or loss of permanent residence status and deportation,’ said Jojo Annobil, Attorney-in-Charge of City-wide Immigration Law Unit, The Legal Aid Society.
“Detainers also bar immigrants from participating in pre-trial diversionary and other rehabilitation programs that benefit the individual and ultimately our communities," Annobil continued.
The Immigrant Defense Project said the legislation was an “important” follow-up to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s suspension from the Secure Communities program.
"Speaker Quinn's legislation is certainly an important step in the right direction," said Michelle Fei of the Immigrant Defense Project. "Along with Cuomo's extraordinary withdrawal from the Secure Communities program, this legislation demonstrates an unwillingness to let ICE continue to deport and destroy our immigrant communities."
Governor Andrew suspendedNew YorkState’s participation from the Federal Secure Communities in June because of concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement inNew York.
The proposed legislation has received support from religious leaders, many of whose congregations are made-up solely of immigrants. They claim Secure Communities has led to deportation, which has taken a “terrible human toll on families.
They note that the program jeopardizes fragile relationships between immigrant communities and the city authorities.
"Our immigrant congregations are grateful that Speaker Quinn has taken the first step in stoppingNew York Cityfrom helping ICE separate families," said Rev. Fabian Arias ofZionLutheranChurch. "For too long we have seen our communities broken apart by harsh and unforgiving immigration policies, so we thank God for Speaker Quinn's courage to stand up for the rights of families."
Make The Road New York (MRNY), an immigrant organization, issued a statement saying regarding the legislation.
“Every day New York City benefits from the energy, initiative and hard-work of immigrants. In a city where 40 percent of all New Yorkers are immigrants, and for the City to do its job, New York City government must not burn bridges to immigrant communities,” said Javier H. Valdes, deputy director of Make The Road New York. “New York City is taking a clear stand that it refuses to be in the business of tearing apart of immigrant families and subsidizing the deportation of non-criminal New Yorkers.”
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