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ICE Sought Ten Times as Many People in NYC Jails as in Previous Year

Rikers Island jail complex. City jails were asked to hold onto more than 500 people for an extra 48 hours by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Seth Wenig) / AP Images )

Dec 13, 2017 · by Beth Fertig

In the fiscal year that ended this fall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, asked the city jails to hold onto 536 people longer than usual so they could be taken into custody and deported.

That's a tenfold increase compared to the 51 detainer requests it made in Fiscal Year 2016.

The number was released in an annual report. It spiked precipitously after one of President Trump's earliest executive orders made people merely charged with crimes a priority for detention, even if they weren't convicted.

During the Obama administration, ICE focused on immigrants with criminal convictions.

As in the previous year, the Department of Correction said none of the detainer requests from ICE were honored.

Local law only allows city police and jails to detain, or hold onto, someone for an additional 48 hours when an immigrant has been convicted of a serious or violent crime in the past five years, and there's a warrant signed by a judge.

The agency said nobody ICE asked for this year met that criteria.

However, the Department of Correction did let ICE know that 20 immigrant prisoners it wanted were about to be released because they had served their time.

Those immigrants were then transferred into federal custody.

Rosemary Boeglin, communications director for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, said the city's policy focuses only on violent criminals so that immigrants feel safe enough to cooperate with law enforcement without the fear of deportation.

She said the goal is "not to help the Trump Administration deport New Yorkers simply because they are immigrants."

"Despite the White House's attempts to malign immigrant-friendly cities like New York, the reality is that we have the highest number of immigrant residents in a century and have reached record-low crime," she added.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who pressed for the local law in 2014, thanked the Department of Correction for its cooperation and said, "We have long set the national standard for limiting law enforcement cooperation with ICE, except in very limited circumstances."

Arrests of immigrants nationally and in New York spiked 40 percent since President Trump took office.

ICE complains that so-called "sanctuary cities" like New York enable dangerous immigrants to walk free.

The agency declined to comment on the latest data from the city's Department of Correction.

But on Thursday, ICE said it arrested four people in New York City after the police department refused detainer requests either in 2017 or in a previous year.

It didn't say what they were charged with. It said one of the men had a prior felony conviction.