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Nothing is more certain to raise blood pressure in New York City than a discussion of the city’s handling of illegal immigration. This is evident in the response to Intro 656, a bill that would prevent the city Department of Correction from handing over suspected illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detention and deportation.
“This bill will absolutely make our communities less safe — it not only puts illegal immigrants who have been charged with another crime back on our streets, but makes no distinction between arrests for violent crimes and other crimes,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria).
Supporters of the bill counter that the Rikers program, which cost $30 million a year, was “tearing families apart.”
Under the federal Criminal Alien Program, correction officials grant ICE agents permission to interview foreign-born inmates in person or via video-conferencing, or to access the jail’s databases containing information on the inmates held there.
Keep in mind that most city agencies are not permitted to exchange information with ICE.
The NYPD, DOC and city Department of Probation have been working with ICE for years and with good reason. Under a program named Operation Predator, Probation and the state Division of Parole worked with ICE to arrest convicted sex offenders currently on probation or parole. Most of those targeted had committed horrendous crimes involving children.
It was argued that regardless of their criminal sentence or immigration status, these sex offenders should not be allowed to continue living in America.
But Intro 656 addresses a more complex problem and both sides should resist the urge to oversimplify the issue. Between 2004 and 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union says more than 13,000 inmates at Rikers Island have been placed into deportation proceedings as a result of CAP.
We trust the NYPD and other criminal justice agencies will continue working with ICE to target the most dangerous illegal immigrants. At the same time, we doubt Intro 656 will have an impact on public safety.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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