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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

2 Bills Before City Council Would Limit Deportations

Two bills that members of the New York City Council plan to propose on Thursday would place further limits on the city’s cooperation with federal authorities seeking to detain and deport immigrants.

The bills come in response to Secure Communities, a federal immigration-enforcement plan that has been criticized by immigrants’ advocates [including advocates from Make the Road New York], civil liberties lawyers and elected officials in the state and across the country. If they pass, the laws will reaffirm the city’s reputation as one of the most immigrant-friendly municipalities in the nation, though the bill also risks provoking a confrontation with the Obama administration.

“What we don’t want is New York City’s agencies having to participate in deporting people who present no risk and in fact may be adding a great deal to the City of New York,” Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and lead sponsor on one of the bills, said in an interview Wednesday.

Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local or county jail are sent to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in its files. If officials find that a suspect is in the country illegally, or is a noncitizen with a criminal record, they may issue “a detainer” — a request that the police hold the person for pickup by federal officials.

Obama administration officials say they have focused the program on immigrants who have committed serious crimes or repeatedly violated immigration laws. But opponents of the program fear that it will become an excessively broad dragnet that fractures families and erodes trust between law-enforcement agencies and immigrants.

The program was expanded to New York last May despite the opposition of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and immigrant groups.

The new bills would significantly expand the protections against detainers that were signed into law by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg last year. Under the proposed legislation, the city would not honor a detainer unless certain conditions were met, including that the immigrant had a prior felony conviction or was facing a felony charge, was included in a federal gang database or on a terrorist watch list, or had outstanding criminal warrants or prior orders of deportation.

In addition, the proposed laws would honor detainers for immigrants convicted of a misdemeanor as long as the conviction occurred within the past decade and was not for unlicensed driving, prostitution or loitering for the purposes of prostitution.

But the laws would block detainers for immigrants facing most misdemeanor charges, with the exception of certain charges relating to weapons, sex crimes, drunken driving, criminal contempt and assault.

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