Law Expected in NYC Would Hamper Inmate Deportations

The Bloomberg administration has announced it now backs a New York City Council bill that attempts to re-direct city cooperation with federal immigration officials towards “deporting noncitizen criminals who pose a threat to the public, while focusing less on illegal immigrants who do not pose a threat.” Sam Dolknick, In Change, Mayor Backs Obstacle to Deportation, N.Y. Times, Oct. 1, 2011, at A19:

In a significant reversal, the Bloomberg administration said Friday that it would support a City Council bill that would hamper federal authorities’ ability to detain, and eventually deport, foreign-born inmates on Rikers Island who are about to be released.

… Corrections Department officials routinely share lists of foreign-born inmates with immigration authorities, who then take custody of, detain and deport thousands of people who had been charged with misdemeanors and felonies. The arrangement is common across the country.

The bill would not end the practice, known as the criminal detainer program, in New York City. But it would prevent corrections officials from transferring inmates to federal custody, even immigrants in the United States illegally, if prosecutors declined to press charges against them, and if they had no convictions or outstanding warrants, had not previously been ordered deported and did not show up on the terrorist watch list.

As a result, the immigrants would be released if they were not defendants in criminal cases, regardless of whether federal officials wanted them deported.

“The criminal detainer program had become the immigrant dragnet program,” Ms. Quinn said. “We don’t support that.”

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