Council Passes Bills to Stop Cooperation With Federal Immigration Detainers

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste) (Photo: NYC Council for William Alatriste)

The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation today to stop the Department of Correction and the NYPD from honoring immigration detainers issued by the federal government unless they are accompanied by a judge’s warrant.

The council voted 41 in favor and 6 against on two bills that will largely end cooperation with the federal government when it requests an immigration detainer — which asks Corrections or the NYPD to hold a person for 48 hours when they might otherwise be released so that the person can be handed over the the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. The requests are often made when an undocumented immigrant is being released from jail for another crime, or if they have been in NYPD custody for questioning.

Under the new legislation, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he supports, the city will honor immigration waivers if the federal government requests them with a judge’s warrant — and even then, only if the subject of the warrant was convicted within the last five years of a violent or serious crime, or is a possible match on the terrorism watch list.

Backers of the legislation, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, lauded it as a way to end warrantless detention of immigrants that they argued are unconstitutional, and as a way to keep city families together and reform broken immigration policies.

“If obstructionists in Congress insist on delaying any federal action on fair and just immigration reform, it falls to municipal governments to pick up the slack,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

Councilman Daniel Dromm argued that the legislation would make the city safer in spurring immigrants to report crime.

“By ending the collusion of local law enforcement and jails with federal immigration authorities, New York City will be a safe place where our immigrants no longer fear deportation by interacting with police. This is good news for all New Yorkers,” Mr. Dromm said.

But Councilman Paul Vallone said the bill’s removal of ICE offices from Rikers Island “sends a dangerous message,” and argued nobody had presented any evidence the legislation would make the city safer.

Mr. Vallone was joined by two fellow Democrats in voting no, Councilmen Chaim Deutsch and Vincent Gentile, as well as the council’s three Republicans, Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio and Councilmen Steven Matteo and Eric Ulrich.

Mr. Ignizio said the legislation was unlike proposals looking to help innocent children caught up in immigration laws, and would only “help individuals who have already shown a disregard for the laws of the community.”

“I join my colleagues in their frustration over Washington — both houses, both parties, for their failure to act on comprehensive immigration policy and work together, as we do very often in this body,” Mr. Ignizio said. “But I believe that lobbying our Congress members, our senators and our president to develop a national solution to his problem is the solution, and not breaking ranks with our federal partners in law enforcement who seek only to keep my family and your family safe.”