The New York City Council is on the verge of passing a bill that would limit the Dept. of Corrections cooperation with federal immigration authorities, reducing the number of unnecessary deportations of immigrant inmates without criminal records.
Though the Mayor and Council have not seen eye-to-eye on the bill, Speaker Christine Quinn said Intro 656 is gaining enough support to override a potential mayoral veto – and it might not even have to jump that last hurdle.
The bill would limit the city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, creating a category of persons whom the Dept. of Corrections could not detain for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The federal Criminal Alien Program allows ICE to identify, process and remove “criminal aliens” incarcerated in local prisons and jails throughout the U.S.
“What they are doing at Rikers is running an alien program rather than a criminal alien program,” said Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Council’s Committee on Immigrant Affairs. “Many innocent immigrants are unfairly being detained and deported because of this broken immigration system.”
The controversial initiative – currently being implemented in city jails – has been criticized by immigrant advocates for its unjust deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been arrested or detained, but who have not been convicted of a crime.
According to the DOC, 13,295 foreign born people were admitted into their facilities in 2010. ICE placed detainers on 3,155 of those inmates and subsequently took custody of 2,552 of them for potential deportation.
In 2010, of the inmates that were discharged from the Dept. of Corrections to the custody of ICE, a little more than 49 percent, had no prior criminal convictions while only 20.8 percent had a prior felony conviction and 20.6 percent has a misdemeanor as their highest prior conviction.
“We need to stop needlessly and excessively deporting people who have had no prior criminal records,” said Quinn, who said she has had “productive discussions” with Mayor Mike Bloomberg about the issue.
The fact that it will not be passed, vetoed and then forced to be over-ridden by the Council – but may actually be signed by the mayor – “really speaks to the power of respect, the power of dialogue and the power you can have when you all keep believing you can move forward and grow a movement,” Quinn said.
The bill, which was introduced in August, has received the support of 38 Council Members and was discussed at a hearing at City Hall on Oct. 3.
Immigration advocates joined Council members at a press conference heralding the prospective passage of the bill as a signal they hope reaches across the nation to communities experiencing a record number of deportations.
“We have to offer hope and real solutions to this problem that’s breaking apart our families,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “This bill will serve as a model for other cities, for other towns, across the country to push back against this wave of hatred and ant-immigrant policies that have torn almost a million families apart.”
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