New York City Continues to Reject Cooperation with Federal Secure Communities Program

ice deportationA set of laws restricting New York City’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, adopted over the past two years by the City Council, are beginning to have an effect according to statistics recently released by the City.   The laws, passed in response to the federal Secure Communities data-sharing program, prohibit the City from honoring hold requests from Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) except under certain circumstances.  The federal program facilitates Homeland Security access to fingerprints of suspects booked at local jails.

In 2011, New York City prohibited city officials from honoring detainer requests except where the individual had prior convictions or outstanding warrants. Then in February 2013, the Council passed further restrictions limiting detainers for all immigrants but those who are facing serious misdemeanor charges, such as sexual abuse, assault, and gun possession.

According to the New York Times, “[f]rom July, when the most recent of the restrictive laws went into effect, to September, city officials responded to 904 federal hold requests,” 331 of which the city declined to honor. These numbers represent a significant departure from past practices, where every detainer request was customarily honored.  However, despite the significant impact on deportations in the City, New York City’s policy represents one of the more moderate positions cities have taken on the Secure Communities program, where cities like Chicago and the District of Columbia have all but prohibited any cooperation with ICE.

Despite the steps the City has taken to shield its immigrant residents from federal reach, immigrant advocates, now turning their advocacy efforts toward incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio, are arguing for even greater restrictions. Mayor-elect de Blasio  “vowed to end the city’s cooperation with federal immigration detainers except for detainees convicted of ‘violent or serious felonies.’”

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