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Pols laud guv’s deportation shift Cuomo has pulled state out of federal program that targets immigrants

Queens leaders are speaking out in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last week to suspend New York’s participation in the federal Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.

The controversial program has achieved the opposite of its intended purpose, which was to reform deportation and other immigration practices in order to boost security, Cuomo said in a June 1 letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcing his decision.

“The heart of concern is that the program, conceived as a method of targeting those who pose the greatest threat to our communities, is in fact having the opposite effect and compromising public safety by deterring witnesses to crime and others from working with law enforcement,” he said in the letter.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) applauded Cuomo’s decision during a conference call with immigration advocates and state Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx).

“It does separate families, it makes victims of crimes more vulnerable than they would be otherwise and it dilutes resources at law enforcement agencies,” Meng said. “Just in Flushing alone last year ... we had people walking by while a woman was literally getting raped, watching it happen, and if you ask people on the street many of them are terrified to go to the police.”

Javier Valdés, deputy director of Make the Road New York, said during the call that the decision is the first step toward the comprehensive immigration reform he believes the nation needs in order to better treat and deal with its burgeoning population of immigrants.

“A program like Secure Communities really breaks the trust between immigrant communities and New York state by ensuring that they are funneled into a broken immigration system,” he said. “We do think the Obama administration needs to look into rethinking their immigration strategy at the national level.”

Illinois withdrew from the program last month for similar reasons to those that motivated Cuomo’s thinking, and immigrant rights advocates hope the trend is toward a repeal of the national program. If Secure Communities is not overturned, repealed, amended or held up in court, states will be required to participate in it despite the opinions of Cuomo or any other state officials.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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