New York City Council Votes to limit the impact of harsh immigration policies like the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities on the city’s immigrant population

On October 22, 2014, in a landslide decision, the New York City Council voted to stop police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  The vote dealt yet another blow to Secure Communities, a federal program which has facilitated the deportation of thousands of immigrants, and made New York the latest in a growing list of cities who are acting to protect immigrant families from deportation and separation.

Secure Communities is not unique to New York.  Under federal policy, all local and state police are required to share fingerprints and other information regarding all current detainees.  ICE then runs the fingerprints against their own system, which flags any potentially deportable immigrants.  In such cases, ICE asks local law enforcement to enforce a “detainer,” or a “hold,” which is meant to keep immigrants in prison for 48 hours, long enough for ICE to locate and interview them.  Advocates point to this as a violation of immigrants’ rights – especially since 48 hours easily turn into weeks, or even months.  Local and state officials are unable to stop information sharing with ICE, which is federally mandated.  However, cities such as New York are learning that they can stop honoring holds.

This isn’t the first time that NYC has tried to restrict its cooperation with ICE

Two votes, passed in 2011 and 2013, limited ICE holds to detainees who had outstanding warrants, or had committed certain crimes.  But ultimately, the laws weren’t that restrictive.  The NYPD was still allowed to honor holds for those detainees who had orders of deportation and for those who had committed certain misdemeanors in the last decade, as well as those suspected of terrorism and gang membership, or convicted of a felony.  In essence, New York City was still punishing immigrants for crimes they had already served time for, or may never have even committed.

By contrast, this new vote blocks ALL detainers, except for those accompanied by a federal warrant.  Now NYC’s immigrants will no longer be judged by their past, but by their present.  Now immigrants can feel free to interact with police, knowing that law enforcement is there to protect, and not deport them.  The city of New York has taken a tremendous step forward towards making immigrant families safer – and, in doing so, has done the same for its’ own communities.

Original Article Contributed by Rebecca Baik