The New York City Council has ended co-operation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
By an overwhelming majority, the council passed a bill Thursday ending the Correction Department’s cooperation with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.
In passing the bill, council members cited what they saw as various abuses of the system, including detention of people in facilities far from New York and deportation of people who came to the United States with their parents as small children.
Under the current system, the city gives names of people arrested – whether or not they are convicted of any crime and regardless of the severity of that crime – to the federal agency, which then can check whether the person is here legally. If the person is undocumented, ICE can then request that he or she be detained for additional time so ICE can arrange to transfer the immigrant to a federal facility to await deportation proceedings.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said:
“When signed by the mayor, the entire government of New York will send a message the city of New York is supportive of, friendly to and welcoming to immigrants.”
Quinn estimated that some 1,000 to 1,500 people deported in 2010 would not have been detained if the measure passed Thursday had been in effect. More than 50 percent of all prison inmates who are discharged to the ICE have no criminal record, the council bill states; for 20 percent of all the inmates who are discharged to ICE, their highest offense is a misdemeanor.
Better for domestic abuse victims, mistreated workers
The ICE co-operation also erodes the trust between immigrants and law enforcement, bill supporters say.
“What it means on the ground is that immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence are afraid to call the police, immigrants may be afraid to report crimes, immigrants may be afraid to seek services they’re eligible for,” the co-executive director of Make the Road New York Andrew Friedman said.
A recent report found that the program ‘Secure Communities’, from which has withdrawn, leads to wrongful arrests of US citizens, racial profiling and deportations without hearings.
In 2010, 13,295 people born outside the United States spent time in city jails, ICE took custody of 2,522.
The law does single out nine categories of people, including possible terrorists, whose names would still be turned over to ICE. Quinn says that this removes any public safety concerns.
The Obama administration has announced that it would suspend deportation proceedings for undocumented immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety.
Previously, Mayor Bloomberg had opposed the bill but is now expected to sign it.The bill has enough sponsors to overturn a veto anyway.
“As our country has learned tragically, when government agencies fail to cooperate and share information, not only is public safety compromised, so is national security,” he said.
Now Feinblatt says that the council bill “strikes the right balance.”
Last week Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray signed an executive order instructing police officers and public service officials not to question the immigration status of persons with whom they have contact.
Photo credit: Say No to Secure Communities Program