While congressional lawmakers battle over immigration reform, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed two bills into law Friday that radically shrink the city’s role in U.S. immigration enforcement practices. The laws – Introductions 486-A and 487-A – effectively end the city’s compliance with federal “detainer requests” for all New York City residents, unless the individual poses a threat to public safety.
“Our city is not served when New Yorkers with strong ties in the community are afraid to engage with law enforcement because they fear deportation,” said de Blasio, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.
Detainer requests are issued to local law enforcement agencies by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. They instruct municipalities to continue holding an apprehended person until federal immigration officials collect and detain him or her, even if charges were dropped. Under the new legislation, New York City authorities will no longer participate in these requests, unless federal immigration officials obtain a judicial warrant and the individual has been found guilty of a violent or serious crime within the last five years, or is a potential match on the terrorist watch list.
“Hard-working immigrants who contribute to our city’s culture, economy and overall growth do not deserve to be turned over to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] because of a minor offense; there are more meaningful ways for us to spend taxpayer dollars than holding immigrants that pose no harm,” said Julissa Ferreras, a New York City council member. Requiring a judicial warrant could cut the percentage of detainers in New York City down to nearly zero, as opposed to 2,000 to 3,000 New York City residents being held by local officials per year, according to the press release.
The laws also eliminate ICE presence at Rikers Island and all municipal buildings, the press release stated.
Immigration reform has produced tensions in Congress between Democrats calling for unilateral measures as soon as possible and Republicans warning U.S. President Barack Obama against taking executive action. Although the president has vowed to take action on federal immigration policy before the end of the year, Republican lawmakers said Obama would be abusing his executive power by essentially granting “amnesty” to millions of undocumented immigrants.