Immigrants swept up by the feds after getting arrested for minor charges pushed a bill Wednesday to sharply limit the city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The legislation would bar the city from complying with most requests to detain and turn over undocumented immigrants who have been arrested.
Carlos Rodriguez, 28, a native of the Dominican Republic, said he was mistakenly arrested for trespassing while visiting a friend’s Washington Heights building last year. Those charges were quickly dropped – but he spent eight months in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in New Jersey as the feds tried to deport him.
“My family suffered tremendously,” said Rodriguez, whose wife and young daughter are U.S. citizens, at a Council hearing on the bill.
He said he “lived in constant fear that I would be deported at any moment” and lost his job as a chef while imprisoned. “The worst part was not knowing when, if ever, I was going to see my 2 year old daughter again.”
Under the legislation, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the city would reject all detention requests unless a judge issues a warrant. Even with a warrant, they would only detain people convicted of a violent or serious crime or included on a terrorist watch list.
De Blasio administration officials backed the move, though they asked for discretion to count more crimes as serious offenses meriting detention, including witness tampering and human trafficking.
Amadou Bello, 56, of Brooklyn, said after fleeing persecution in his native Central African Republic, he was busted for vending without a license, a charge that was later dismissed, and then turned over to the feds who held him for eight months.
“Many people get deported because of the connection between ICE and New York City. Some of these are people with families here. Others, like me, are people who will be killed if they return home,” said Bello, who was eventually given another chance to apply for asylum.
Under current policy, the city turns over about 3000 people a year to the feds.
Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau also testified for the bill. “These bills will safeguard our city and our country while also protecting the rights of immigrants who came to our country seeking a better life,” said the 95-year-old former prosecutor.
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