The controversial “Secure Communities” program went into effect in New York City Tuesday but not without a fight.
Critics have been calling on Homeland Security to stop the federal program until significant changes can be made.
“Secure Communities” requires all fingerprints taken by local police be shared with Homeland Security to determine if the person arrested is an illegal immigrant and could be deported.
The federal government argues the program would help identify immigrants who could pose a threat. Those opposed charge it creates a fear within immigrant communities, along with potential racial and ethnic profiling.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says Immigration and Custom Enforcement promised to address the problem.
“Other than minor tweaks, nothing has been done,” Quinn said. “ICE continues to enforce security communities without regard to communities or family ties, deporting those who pose no potential risk to public safety at all.”
“We cannot allow some federally mandated program to come into the State of New York and really disrupt the kind of environment we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Lucia Gomez-Jimenez of La Fuente.
Members of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights organization, were part of a rally Monday against the program.
On Tuesday, NY1 spoke to a member who asked that her last name be withheld.
Jessica, who is transgender, says she has been in the United States illegally for 15 years. She says she is often stopped by police and fears an arrest now could get her sent back to Ecuador.
“One person recently from my country told a judge here in the U.S. that they feared for their lives back in Ecuador. The judge deported him and he was killed,” Jessica said.
Meanwhile, reaction amongst New Yorkers was mixed.
“It might be a little hard on immigrants if they get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, they might have to face deportation but everyone should be legally in the country,” said one New Yorker.
“I think immigrants make up a large part of New York. So I don’t know if I agree with it completely but then again if you’re here illegally I think maybe it is in the best interest to be deported,” said another New Yorker.
“Secure Communities” was first introduced in 2008 and 31 of New York’s counties are already part of the program.
Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo tried to get New York an exemption.
Quinn said legislation is now being drafted to establish perimeters on the police department’s interaction with the federal government.
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