With Mayor Bloomberg’s backing, the City Council is set to take up a bill Monday making it more difficult for the feds to nab and deport immigrants from Rikers Island [spearheaded by Make the Road NY].
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has championed the bill – now nearly certain to become law – saying unfettered local cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Rikers needlessly splits apart immigrant families.
“We are on the verge of a great victory, not just for immigrant New Yorkers, but for all New Yorkers,” Quinn said Sunday outside Ascension Church on the upper West Side.
Under the current system, all immigrant inmates face detention and deportation for being undocumented – even if they are never charged with a crime.
But the new bill would bar ICE from getting info about every foreign-born inmate at Rikers. Those who are released because prosecutors decide not to press charges would get a pass.
Mayor Bloomberg, who had initially publicly defended ICE’s Rikers efforts, said last week that he supported the bill, giving it new momentum.
“Even after originally stating opposition to the bill . . . [the mayor] engaged in very ongoing and aggressive negotiations,” Quinn said.
Critics have called the bill a public safety risk. Quinn says that isn’t the case – corrections officers would first check to see if immigrants show up on the terrorist watch list or have past convictions, outstanding warrants or a deportation order.
“If we are deporting people needlessly who are not a threat to public safety, how do these acts help keep New Yorkers safe? They simply do not,” Quinn said.
New York ICE spokesman Lou Martinez declined to comment, saying the agency doesn’t discuss pending legislation.
The City Council would be the first legislative body in the country to pass this type of bill. Quinn said she hopes to have it signed into law by the end of the year.
“We will keep families united,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem). “We are a city that values the contributions that immigrants make every day.”
Advocates say ICE’s presence on Rikers has made some immigrants afraid to go to the police.
“People are scared. They don’t want to leave their homes,” said Rafael Samanez, director of community group Vamos Unidos. “We’ve seen the havoc it wreaks.”
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