The bill is an effort to circumvent the Secure Communities program, which requires police to send fingerprints of everyone in custody to the feds, who check them against immigration databases to flag those who pose a danger. Local officials say the program has unfairly penalized immigrants who pose no threat.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announce new legislation today that would exempt immigrants arrested for low-level offenses and certain misdemeanors from having their fingerprints turned over to the federal government. Youthful offenders would also be exempt.
The NYPD would be blocked from turning some arrested immigrants over to the feds under a City Council bill announced Thursday.
The idea is to take the some of the sting out of the controversial Secure Communities program, which requires local cops to send the fingerprints of everyone in custody to the feds, who check them against immigration databases.
“We in local government are saying to the federal level: You may not have let our state and our governor out of this program, but we’re going to find a way to make sure the five boroughs gets out,’” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “We’re not going to let you deport people and rip families apart and send people out of this country who are good New Yorkers and pose no danger to New York City residents.”
Homeland Security officials maintain the Secure Communities program efficiently flags dangerous, criminal immigrants for deportation. But critics, including Gov. Cuomo, say it has swept up many people with clean records who get busted for low-level offenses. Immigrant advocates [including advocates from Make the Road New York] say it makes entire communities — even victims — afraid to call the police.
Under Quinn’s bill, which she is set to introduce next week, the NYPD would not detain and turn over suspects flagged in the fingerprint program who have no past criminal record and who are not ultimately hit with a serious charge. Youthful offenders and those who have been charged with low-level offenses and certain misdemeanors, such as prostitution, that are common among sex-trafficking victims, would also get a pass.
“As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on pending legislation,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Ross Feinstein. He said ICE is focusing on convicted criminals and repeat immigration offenders and that it is up to the feds — not states or cities — to determine and enforce these priorities.
Mayor Bloomberg supports the bill, which mirrors similar legislation passed last year limiting the city Department of Correction’s cooperation with ICE on Rikers Island.
“We believe that we are consistent with federal law in not going ahead if it’s a minor misdemeanor,” Bloomberg said Thursday. “If we thought for a second that it was breaking federal law, we wouldn’t do it. We’d have no choice.”
Quinn said the city would still honor ICE detainers for immigrants who have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors within the past 10 years, have an outstanding criminal warrant, are identified as a known gang member or a possible match to a terrorist database, or have an outstanding warrant for removal or final deportation order. Those with pending felony charges and certain pending misdemeanor charges — including sex abuse, gun possession, driving while intoxicated or the violation of an order of protection — would also be held for ICE, Quinn said.
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