nyc.law.bars

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, shown with City Council colleagues in the Red Room at City Hall on Oct. 7, announced the introduction of two new bills that will further protect the rights of undocumented immigrants in the city.  (Shannon Liao/Epoch Times)


New York City is truly living up to its reputation as a haven for all immigrants.

Its City Council is setting a new precedent by proposing a law to bar the turn over of undocumented immigrants in local jails to federal immigration authorities’ requests to detain them for deportation.

Joining other cities challenging U.S. policy, the city officials said unless there is a warrant issued by a federal judge, or the immigrant has been convicted of a violent or serious crime in the past five years, they intend to create a more welcoming atmosphere.

“By further limiting (Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s) role in the detention and deportation of immigrant New Yorkers, we set the national standard for the treatment of our immigrant population,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement.

“Families will no longer be needlessly torn apart by ICE’s dragnet enforcement efforts.”

Critics have pointed out that the proposal protects alleged criminals since anyone facing serious criminal charges will not be automatically turned over to ICE, according to the New York Post.

But ICE already detains immigrants arrested on criminal charges, in order to “ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails and into our communities,” ICE said.

The bill will be introduced this week at the Democratic-controlled City Council, virtually assuring its passage.

The Bill de Blasio said he backs the bill, and New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton said he supports the goals of the measure’s supporters.

Under the legislation, the NYPD and the Department of Correction wouldn’t honor detainer requests from ICE unless the request was for an immigrant convicted of a “violent or serious crime” and who was the subject of a warrant issued by a federal judge.

Also under the proposed measure, ICE would be evicted from Riker’s Island, where it now maintains an office to facilitate its local detention program.

A spokesman for ICE defended the agency’s goals, and said it requests immigrants arrested on criminal charges be held “to ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails and into our communities.”

“ICE will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout New York as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities through the identification and removal of convicted criminals and other public safety threats,” said Luis Martinez, the spokesman.

An ICE official said releasing criminal offenders into the community instead of into federal custody undermines the agency’s goal of protecting the public.

After an individual is arrested in New York City, he or she is fingerprinted, personal information is then shared with a federal database and can be accessed by ICE and other authorities under the Secure Communities program that began in 2008.

If ICE finds that someone being held at Rikers is in the country illegally, for example, it may issue a detainer request, asking the city to hold the person for up to 48 hours until he can be taken into federal custody.

Mark-Viverito said the bill is necessary to lessen New York City’s role in a dysfunctional national immigration system that ensnares illegal immigrants in deportation proceedings because of minor offenses.

The legislation would be Mark-Viverito’s most high-profile policy push since becoming speaker in January.

She has sought to make immigration a signature issue, championing a city identification card aimed at helping undocumented immigrants and other groups more easily access city services.

New York would follow Philadelphia, San Diego, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles in not honoring most detainer requests.

The proposal drew fire from U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican locked in a tight race for re-election.

He said it gave “incentives for illegals to flock to our city when we don’t even have adequate housing and resources for our own citizens.”

From Oct. 27, 2008, until Aug. 31 of this year, ICE requested detainer requests on more than 900,000 people arrested in New York City, according to the agency.

De Blasio has been vocal about his support of undocumented immigrants, including offering a new municipal ID card set to debut in January.

The new cards will be available to immigrants, as well as currently undocumented residents — a common problem in an area where many take public transport, avoiding the need for a driver’s license.

Between October 2012 and September 2013, the city’s Department of Correction released more than 3,000 people to federal immigration agents but denied 1,163 requests, Al Jazeera reported.

Comparatively, the Department of Homeland Security released official deportation figures for 2013, which show more than 2 million immigrants have been deported.