NYC Bill Would Let City Ignore Some U.S. Requests To Detain Immigrants


Thomson Reuters
New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito covers her mouth as she speaks on a phone prior to her election for speaker of the city council inside of City Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Under a proposed law, New York City would decline requests by U.S. immigration authorities to detain immigrants for deportation proceedings unless a federal judge issues a warrant.

Even with a warrant, the city's police department and Department of Correction would only honor a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention request if the immigrant had been convicted of a violent or serious crime in the past five years.

"By further limiting ICE'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, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "Families will no longer be needlessly torn apart by ICE's dragnet enforcement efforts."

An ICE detainer request usually asks a jail, prison, sheriff or police force to continue holding an immigrant in their custody for up to 48 more hours until he or she can be picked up by ICE agents.

The legislation before the city council has Mayor Bill de Blasio's support and would make New York City the largest jurisdiction to challenge federal immigration authorities in this way. The sheriff of Cook County, whose jurisdiction includes Chicago, also has refused to cooperate with many ICE requests.

The lawmakers behind the bill saying detaining immigrants without a warrant may be a breach of the U.S. Constitution and is at odds with the character of New York City, home to nearly 3 million foreign-born residents.

Currently, the city honors so-called detainer requests without a warrant, even if the immigrant has only been charged with a crime and not convicted of one.

ICE responded to the proposed law on Thursday with a statement saying it issues detainer requests on "individuals arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminals and are not released from prisons or jails and into our communities."

ICE says its priority is to deport non-citizens who have been convicted of a crime in the United States or abroad, who are a danger to other people or who repeatedly break immigration laws.

The city's Department of Correction handed over 3,047 people to federal immigration agents between October 2012 and September 2013, the City Council said. It denied 1,163 detainer requests during that period. It would honor far fewer request under the new law, the council speaker said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Trott)

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