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Sanctuary city for migrants: what problems does this status create for New York?


Alina Prikhodko

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Republicans are calling for rolling back laws that protect illegal immigrants from deportation. Immigrant rights advocates say these are important public safety measures. But what do asylum laws actually do? The City talked about what a sanctuary city is and what it means for New York.

Fight between policemen New York City and migrants in Times Square, which went viral, sparked a national scandal over longstanding sanctuary city policies that limit cooperation between federal authorities and local law enforcement. Illegal immigrants could be deported, but will not due to sanctuary city policies.

Republicans used the incident to argue that sanctuary laws need to be changed. Mayor Eric Adams asked the City Council to reconsider them, but the council defended the measures by saying they were unrelated to the incident.

So what does the concept of “city of refuge” mean?

Although New York has a number of laws aimed at protecting immigrants from certain types of law enforcement, the concept of a “sanctuary city” does not really have a clear legal basis. It is rather a set of policies and political will that determines the interaction of local and federal authorities.

Typically, when politicians, advocates and critics use the term “sanctuary city,” they are referring to local government policies that limit the sharing of information about noncitizens with federal immigration authorities. Sanctuary city policies are designed to protect these people from unfair or unreasonable law enforcement actions such as arrests, detentions, or deportations.

On the subject: Curfew imposed on 20 migrant shelters in New York

Sanctuary city advocates say it is a vital public safety measure that allows law-abiding immigrants to report crimes, seek medical care and go to court without fear of being turned over to immigration authorities. Sanctuary cities are safer than non-sanctuary cities and have lower poverty and crime rates on average.

On According to According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), at the national level, sanctuary city policy has been controversial and divisive for decades, and the issue has become even more pressing since 2017, when the Trump administration stepped up immigration enforcement.

As of 2020, at least 172 localities in the United States have some form of asylum policy, CRS reports, citing the Center for Immigration Studies.

What is asylum law in New York?

The creation of local sanctuary laws in New York City dates back to at least 1989, when Mayor Ed Koch signed an executive order declaring the city willing to become a sanctuary for immigrants, but prohibiting city officials from sharing information about immigrants unless it related to a criminal case. or unless there is written permission from the individual immigrant. This order was reissued by Mayor David Dinkins and then by Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

The city's first law limiting local government cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency—as opposed to an executive order—appeared in 2011. IN 2014 yearUnder Mayor Bill de Blasio, city lawmakers have expanded protections by limiting when and how city police and corrections agencies can cooperate with ICE.

On the subject: Without money and prospects: how elderly migrants live in New York

The 2014 bill enshrined two major changes: it eliminated the ICE office that operated on Rikers Island and all city jails, and it prohibited the NYPD and Department of Corrections from carrying out “detention requests” from ICE (that is, a formal request to detain a specific person). person for possible future deportation) with some notable exceptions such as people with recent convictions for violent or serious crimes, people on the federal terrorist list, and if ICE officers obtain a bench warrant.

In 2018, de Blasio and the leadership of the police department went further - they released citywide leadership, which requires any requests for assistance from federal immigration authorities to be “preliminarily reviewed by senior city agency officials” to ensure they are not intended to assist in deportation.

Photo: Rissing

Does this mean ICE can't make arrests in New York?

No. As criminal defense attorney Robert Osuna, who has extensive experience working with clients in immigration proceedings, explains, ICE has the authority to arrest anyone who is not a U.S. citizen. “ICE can arrest anyone they believe is not a United States citizen. These are extraordinary, extraordinary powers that they have,” he said.

Last year, for example, according to federal dataICE arrested 9 people in New York City, mostly with no criminal offenses other than their immigration status. Of these arrests, 229 were made against those who were pending criminal cases or convicted. In addition, ICE deported 729 people from New York City last fiscal year.

While ICE can make arrests on its own in the city's five boroughs, it must do so largely independently of the NYPD and the Department of Corrections. Before the 2014 Safe Sanctuary Act, ICE could request that an immigrant be detained by the NYPD and the Department of Corrections, and those agencies could comply.

In practice, city officials now rarely detain people on ICE orders, although they do occasionally do so. Last fiscal year, the Department of Corrections received 201 ICE detention requests and granted 10 of them, it said. annual report. In the previous fiscal year, the NYPD received 109 ICE detention requests and complied with none.

ICE officials in New York say obtaining a bench warrant is difficult in “overburdened federal courts”; they rely on media reports to apprehend the most serious criminals. As Kenneth Genalo, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, sanctuary city laws require that instead of taking into custody a person already detained by the NYPD or the police department, “we now have to go out into the community and into the streets, where, unfortunately, the criminals have the upper hand.”

So the NYPD won't arrest or charge immigrants accused of crimes?

No. In New York, they are treated the same as any other person, regardless of their immigration status. “Asylum policies have no impact on how criminals are prosecuted,” said City Council Speaker Adriana Adams. “They do not hide or shelter people from detection, or protect them from deportation or prosecution for criminal activity.”

In some cases, a person's immigration status may affect the charges the district attorney brings against them. For example, in 2017, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office would consider immigration consequences when filing charges depending on the circumstances, since some convictions all but guarantee deportation.

Regardless of how a local criminal case develops, if a defendant is free on bail or a surety bond while proceedings are ongoing, ICE may take custody of the defendant at any time.

What do critics of sanctuary policies want to change?

Following a standoff with NYPD in Times Square, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and other Republicans are calling on the city to repeal 2014 laws that prevent the NYPD and the NYPD from complying with most ICE detention requests.

Gov. Kathy Hochul says we need to “catch them all and send them back,” meaning the sanctuary policy should be bypassed entirely. For his part, Mayor Eric Adams expressed concern about the law, but did not directly say what exactly should be changed.

“That's the only area of ​​the law that I think needs to be looked at,” he said. “If you repeatedly commit serious crimes, dangerous crimes, if you are found guilty, you have no place in our city.”

But that's exactly how the law currently works, according to Osuna's lawyer. Any of the men accused of attacking police officers in Times Square would likely be quickly deported if convicted. “This is not a joke,” he noted. – Migrants, documented or undocumented, commit a crime and are sent to another state. If you go to another state, you will definitely be finished, one hundred percent finished.”

At least for now, the council is unlikely to consider removing the protections. At a February 8 briefing, Speaker Adams strongly defended the city's sanctuary policy.

“This policy promotes trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and local authorities, which is critical to public safety,” she explained. “Those who use an incident that we should all unanimously condemn to attack public safety policies are advocating for policies that will make our city less safe.”

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