Will Secure Communities make NYC the next Arizona for immigrants?
New York City has long been known as a refuge that celebrates immigrants, whether they are here legally or not. But starting tomorrow, that all may change.
New York City has long been known as a refuge that celebrates immigrants, whether they are here legally or not.
But some worry that a new federal policy beginning tomorrow will turn the city's atmosphere from friendly to frightening.
The U.S. government is mandating a program called Secure Communities be enforced in the city starting Tuesday, May 15. Secure Communities requires police to send fingerprints of everyone arrested to immigration officials. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents then check to see whether that person should be deported.
City officials said yesterday the program threatens New York's immigrant-friendly nature, where police trust immigrants to report crimes, not fear being stopped by cops.
"Secure Communities would put us all at risk by making law-abiding New Yorkers less likely to report a crime or come forward as a witness,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said.
Both the city and state fought Secure Communities; in 2011, when the program was optional, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended state participation.
But now, it's mandatory and New York police have no choice but to comply.
Federal officials argue the program is an effective way to deport violent criminals.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 135,000 illegal immigrants convicted of crimes across the nation were removed through Secure Communities since the inception of the program in 2008. Nearly 50,000 of those deported were convicted of offenses like murder, rape and sexual abuse of children.
But critics say that the program does not differentiate between dangerous criminals and people who are arrested during a mere traffic stop. Also at risk for deportation could be those people who are arrested and charged with a crime, only to have the charges dropped later.
Some also worry the program will make immigrants less likely to trust police and report crimes, such as terrorism, in their neighborhoods.
De Blasio penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Sunday, asking him to halt the program. And City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would monitor the program and is drafting legislation to clarify the limits of NYPD contact with immigrants.