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

City Council passes bills to ignore some requests to detain immigrants

New York City will soon start rejecting some requests from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain immigrants for deportation, except in limited circumstances, under a package of bills the City Council passed overwhelmingly last week.

One bill permits the New York Police Department and the city’s Department of Correction to no longer honor detainer requests unless there is a judicial warrant and if the immigrant is on a terrorist watch list and has been convicted of a violent or serious crime in the past five years.

The other bill calls for the ICE office on Rikers Island and any other DOC property to be closed. It bans correction officers from assisting federal authorities with enforcement.

Currently, the NYPD and DOC honor detainment requests from ICE by holding suspected illegal immigrants on Rikers Island for up to 48 hours until ICE picks them up, said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“We have a city that respects the constitutional rights and dignity of all of our residents,” said Mark-Viverito, who sponsored both measures. “We also have no reason to expend serious resources sustaining and enforcing broken immigration laws. These bills will keep hardworking families united, keeping New Yorkers safe and secure, and they’re about simple fairness.”

Mark-Viverito said the measures will also limit the time and money the city spends assisting the ICE for deporting immigrants who are “low-level offenders and who have not committed any crime.”

The Democratic-majority Council voted 41-6 on both measures. Three Democrats joined all three Republican members in voting no. The legislation has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is expected to sign it into law. The NYPD also supports the measures. When signed, New York City will join Philadelphia, San Diego, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles, none of which honor most detainer requests.

Democratic Councilman Paul Vallone, a former attorney who voted against the bills, questioned why there is a five-year limit exclusion for those who been convicted of a violent or serious crime.

“What we’re saying here is that we aren’t going to honor requests even if there is a warrant obtained to deport violent felons if five years have passed,” he said. “How does this help our city? We would rather this murderer be in our city than be deported?”

Republican Councilman Vincent Ignizio argued that both measures “raise significant safety concerns.”

“While I agree that our national immigration policies are broken and are in need of desperate reform, prohibiting our law enforcement officers from detaining criminals in cooperation with our national immigration enforcement agency is not the solution,” he said. “These pieces of legislation will help individuals who have already shown a disregard for the law.”

Ignizio said that “the solution is” for council members to lobby President Barack Obama and Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a nonprofit group that advocates for immigrant New Yorkers, said this bill will end the “unjust federal deportation system” that affects thousands of people.

“Today, the City Council has shown that they value immigrant families and the safety of immigrant communities,” he said. “This bill will protect thousands of families, save the city money and improve trust.”

According to multiple report reports, a spokesperson for ICE said their detainer requests “ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails into our communities.” The spokesperson said ICE will continue to cooperate with the city to identify and remove those who are a threat to the city.

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