on March 22, 2016 at 12:00 PM, updated March 22, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis at a budget hearing in Albany in January. (Staten Island Advance)

As we near the culmination of the presidential primary season and approach the general election where the American people will elect our 45th President, a major policy issue has emerged to the forefront.

The existence of 12 million people unlawfully residing in our country is a problem that is widely acknowledged, but a consensus solution has proven evasive.

Since I last wrote on this matter, and for roughly 30 years, nothing has been done to address illegal immigration or modernize the immigration process.

Sadly, the problem has metastasized as our leadership in Washington dithers.

And, as a result, we are seeing state and city governments enacting measures to accommodate illegal residents, providing incentives for more people to ignore the rules of the immigration process and enter the country unlawfully.

Most recently, we learned that some members of the New York City Council want to extend voting rights to illegal residents and, at the State Capitol, we face annual attempts by Assembly Democrats to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to access the taxpayer-funded Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) while our citizens struggle with unsurmountable college debt.

This past week, the same group of lawmakers proposed spending an additional $10 million to provide healthcare for those unlawfully residing in our state and nation.

It gets worse.


President Obama's unilateral implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), if not stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court, will cost New York's taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in additional Medicaid costs. Under the current Medicaid framework, the federal government and the State of New York split costs evenly. However, the federal government is prohibited from spending its funds on those non-citizens, so states will be forced to foot the bill in its entirety.

The State has already set aside $38 million for this in last year's budget and anticipates an additional $80 million to be earmarked this year to fulfill the unfunded mandate.

As if offering entitlements were not enough, government is going to great lengths to protect criminals from deportation.

Locally, the New York City Council and Mayor Bill De Blasio enacted two misguided "sanctuary city" policies in 2014. These measures significantly impede cooperation between the New York City Department of Correction (DOC), New York Police Department (NYPD), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), by prohibiting DOC and NYPD from honoring immigration detainers unless accompanied by a federal warrant and the person has either been convicted of a violent or serious crime, or is identified as a possible match on in the terrorist screening database.

Alarmingly, the list of crimes identified as "violent or serious" does not include major transgressions including, but not limited to, grand larceny, criminal sale of prescription drugs, identity theft and even certain acts of sexual abuse.

According to the NYPD's Summary of Statistics on ICE Detainers from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, the Department received 504 civil immigration detainers. Only 30 detainers were honored and 474 were denied. Not one individual was transferred from the NYPD to ICE.


The City of New York honoring less than 6 percent of civil detainers is even more unconscionable knowing that ICE limits the issuance of civil detainers to situations where the individual is considered dangerous or has previously been convicted of breaking the law. To make matters worse, the city has actually banned federal immigration authorities from operating on Rikers Island.

These dangerous policies are not just being implemented here in New York City, but in cities across the nation. We witnessed a tragedy this past summer in San Francisco, when Kate Steinle was killed by a stray bullet fired by the gun of an illegal resident who had already been deported five times and had seven felony convictions. Following the suspect's arrest for an outstanding drug warrant, the Sanctuary City of San Francisco refused to comply with a detainer request from ICE, instead releasing the culprit instead and allowing him to commit this heinous murder.

Even when local authorities do comply, the federal government often turns a blind eye.

Just this past week, ICE Director Sarah R. Saldańa informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that 124 illegal immigrants have been charged with homicides after being released from ICE custody since 2010, and committed 2,560 new crimes in 2014 alone. As for removing illegal residents from the country, only 974 of the 30,558 criminal aliens freed by ICE were deported in 2014 – amounting to just 3 percent.

It is no wonder that anger and frustration among our citizenry has exploded over the past year and the issue of immigration has dominated this year's presidential election. Government, at all levels, must be reminded to whom they are accountable, and cease incentivizing unlawful activity that hurts American families financially and, at worst, increases risk to our safety and security.

Nicole Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) represents the 60th District in the New York State Assembly.