For years, federal immigration officials have had access to inmates on Rikers Island who are accused of crimes, as the city has detained them for the federal government, which has led to thousands of deportations. Now, the City Council speaker says she is putting a stop to it. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Federal immigration officials may soon be locked out of Rikers Island.
The City Council is proposing legislation to severely limit the country’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from detaining undocumented immigrants who are accused of crimes here.
“This is very practical, and it’s really a common sense thing to do,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Under the new proposal, federal immigration officials would not be able to detain any inmate unless they had a warrant from a federal judge. That inmate would only be detained under the proposal if he or she is convicted of a serious crime, like assault or armed robbery, or is on a terror watch list.
“A lot of times, we’re seeing people with extremely low-level offenses, people that have set roots here, that live here, that have family members, that are the main providers for their families, that are being deported, and that obviously has implications, economic and social implications, for New York City,” Mark-Viverito said.
The Council also plans to kick the federal agency physically off the island. Right now, these federal officials have a location on Rikers, where, Council officials say, they have access to inmate immigration status. Under the speaker’s proposal, that location would be shut down.
Currently, inmates on Rikers Island could be detained by federal immigration officials if they are facing felony charges or, in some cases, certain misdemeanors.
“Rikers is a place where you’re supposed to be presumed innocent, but when getting arrested means you’re in deportation, then the consequences are huge,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
According to the Council, between October 2012 and September 2013, more than 3,000 inmates were detained by immigration officials from the Department of Correction.
“We are hoping with this legislation, we are able reduce that number to almost 80 percent of the people will not be turned over to immigration,” said Javier Valdés of Make the Road New York.
In response to the proposal, the immigration agency said it would continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement in New York to enforce its priorities.
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