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New York Works Too Closely With ICE, Critics Say

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Luis was sleeping in his Harlem home when police arrested him on charges of second-degree murder in September 2007.

Today, all charges against the college student have been dismissed, but now Luis faces possible deportation to his native Mexico, after his immigration status became known to federal authorities upon arrival to Rikers Island Correctional Facility.

Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended the controversial federal immigration program Secure Communities at the beginning of the month. But for far longer immigration advocates and some politicians have argued that the city works too closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), through another federal immigration initiative, the Criminal Alien Program.

Consequently, they argue, a large number of individuals without prior criminal record are deported, and the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant population is damaged in the process.

"The concern is the level of … unfettered access that ICE agents in Rikers Island have to information of people that are brought to Rikers," said Melissa Mark Viverito, member of the City Council, who has been at the forefront of efforts to limit access ICE has to inmates at Rikers.

An immigration hold or detainer was lodged against Luis the same day he arrived at Rikers Island. After his case was closed, he was sent to a deportation facility in Texas, and today he is waiting for another appearance before an immigration judge who will decide what happens next.

WNYC withheld Luis' last name at his request because of his pending immigration case.

The Department of Corrections, through the Criminal Alien Program, makes information on foreign-born arrestees available to ICE, whose agents are stationed at Rikers and interview inmates there.

The Department of Corrections, in a statement to WNYC, emphasized the information it provides to ICE is also available to everyone else on their Website. Additionally, they said, since 2009, inmates are given advance notice of ICE interviews and provided with a form available in eight languages, which gives them the option to decline an interview.

Criminal Alien Program, ICE argues, allows them to target illegal aliens with a criminal record and prevent them from being released into the general public and potentially committing other crimes. But critics argue that those who are wrongfully arrested, such as Luis, as well as those who are eventually found innocent or apprehended on minor offenses are also swept up in the program.

According to a research done in 2010 by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research organization, 34 percent of noncitizens charged with the most serious felonies received an ICE detainer, but so did over half of those arrested on a misdemeanor.

"I think the policy should be: if you're convicted of a felony, yes, you should be deported," said Robert Morgenthau, who served for 35 years as Manhattan’s District Attorney. "But short of that, if you’re arrested because you overstayed your student visa, or if you're driving with a broken headlight, or any other minor offense, that's not a ground for deportation."

In an interview with WNYC, Morgenthau, who has been a vocal critic of this cooperation between the local authorities and federal immigration officials, said he believed only names of those who are convicted of violent crimes should be turned over to ICE.

He, as well as some other critics, emphasize the most severe consequence of the cooperation is the lack of trust in law enforcement it creates among the immigrant population, undermining the Mayor’s Executive Order 41, which prohibits city agencies from inquiring about immigration status when people seek services from a city agency or witness a crime.

The mayor's office declined requests for a comment.

"NYPD itself has recognized that when the criminal justice system is seen by immigrant communities as the gateway to deportation and detention, immigrant witnesses and victims of crimes are fearful to come forward and cooperate," said Peter Markowitz, associate clinical professor of law at Cardozo School of Law. "Any time any segment of our population is afraid of the police it makes us all less safe."

According to ICE, in the fiscal year 2010, 8,969 immigration detainers were issued in New York. In the same period, 171,281 aliens who were processed nationwide under the Criminal Alien Program were removed.

While some City Council members, including Speaker Christine Quinn, have raised concerns with the Department of Homeland Security about the program, others, such as Peter Vallone Jr., are convinced the program functions exactly as it should.

"You cannot tell federal agents that they can ignore the law, which is to deport illegal aliens that are in their possession," said Vallone.

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Comments [8]

NYPAGMAN from Cornwall on the Thames

Never saw the response from mrsjimenez210. Ma'am, I turned my daughter in for shoplifting and drug abuse. She spent some time in Lackawanna prison. You don't know me or mine and this is not a personal issue. As far as who "the real criminals are"? There's plenty out there. Everywhere. It's a hard world. Empathy? Sympathy? Like I said, it's a hard world out there, but right now we're discussing illegals. Where were you when I commented on the other issues you pointed out. Let's address one thing at a time and maybe something will finally get done. If you feel that illegal immigration is okay because a couple of cops murdered someone holding a wallet and got away with it, well, that's a lousy argument too. Address the subject and don't hate. According to public record, the immigration program in question was started back in the eighties and was given the name Criminal Alien Program in 2003. It came to a head when an "innocent" illegal raped and killed a woman in Flushing Meadow Park. There are lots of innocents in jail. Whether they are morally innocent, statutorily innocent, or just naively so. Don't preach your righteous rhetoric to me. Keep it on point and aim your venomous remarks in the right direction. You have a strong voice, just aim it in the right direction.

Oct. 06 2011 08:07 AM

WOW...IGNORANCE IS GLOBAL!!!

TO YOU: NYPAGMAN

Your argument is "the law is the law". Come on, give me a real argument. How many inmates are in prison innocently? Do you know or even care? I don't think so.

Let's turn the table around here for one split second. If your son or daughter was brutally beaten by THE LAW and/or shot at 67 times or so, would you be sitting at your computer or little laptop saying, "I BREAK IT, I PAY FOR IT"? BIG TIME BS'ER. You would be on every news channel crying a river talking about my son or daughter is innocent...knowing damn well they were not. AGAIN, the real criminals lie in the government sectors and organizations. ARRESTS need to begin with them first. There are pedophiles, extortioners, murders, etc. You name it and they have it. If you are going to stereotype, please think about your own and if you were in a situation similar to the immigrants where they escape their country because they want to preserve their family and legacy from being exterminated by fellow countrymen. This nonchalant attitude is inexcusable. Please do not call yourself a CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES OR AMERICAN. You are shaming the forefathers of this country. Do us a favor and rethink what you write before you write. Empathy is actually something people feel and aliens are more embracing of this emotion than you are MR. PagMan

Aug. 02 2011 12:01 AM

I am addressing the following comment:

"DOH from USA
Typical of the illegal lovers to whine over any type of immigration enforcement. When will politicians stop protecting the criminals? Any arrest, besides the other crimes illegals commit, deserve deportationl !"

It is ironic how people who write this comment work for the DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND HYGIENE! In all reality it is a disgrace to have such a person working in a government organization that is for the public and all of its issues. I am not an immigrant, but if I were asked I would say, YES, I AM PROUDLY". It is appalling what the word AMERICAN has become. If you studied your history correctly and not the lies they publish in the history books, then you would clearly understand that immigrants were the very people who help this nation USA become a GREAT NATION! For instance, the JEWS are immigrants as well and they have made many major contributions to this state and others. Latina America has made many contributions as well...building homes, towns, cities. Many have lost their families and have died doing so.

It is peculiar that you mention arresting criminals. There is no greater criminality than an inhumane heart. You need to learn the definition of equality and unity. People like you make this world sour, ugly, and unlivable. Get a heart!!! Go watch the WIZARD OF OZ and actually learn something from it. Clown. The real criminals are working in government offices, justifying their criminality in the field of work - just like you. Coward hiding your identity because you fear losing your job. I do hope someone discovers you and fires you on the spot for being a two-time racist and two-face. How do you work for a company that supports these immigrants? Most of these immigrants work for their money and are not causing anyone harm. If you don't do well in a multicultural society, then go to the North Pole with the Polar Bears to see if they really care about your nationality or ethnicity when the are hungry. Foolishness is intolerable and your denseness is disgusting and appalling. Let your job be stripped away and all avenues of finances shutdown...then maybe you will understand what it is like to live in a foreign country. You are probably a foreigner denying your culture and think that you can actually call yourself an AMERICAN.

You are in the pot of the real criminals. Get a real clue.....................................................

Aug. 01 2011 11:41 PM
Fancy from San Diego

The gross misuse of justice lies with Cumo and his ilk - not Rikers Island and ICE.

Illegal aliens are just that - illegal! They cheated the system and now expect to be treated to all this country has to offer - NOT!

Running the justice system in NY is like being a "little-bit pregnant". Either you are or your not! As for Senior Luis - pobrecito!

Jun. 29 2011 12:41 AM
DOH from USA

Typical of the illegal lovers to whine over any type of immigration enforcement. When will politicians stop protecting the criminals? Any arrest, besides the other crimes illegals commit, deserve deportationl !

Jun. 28 2011 01:30 PM
Elka from NY

The illegals are so delicately called immigrants. It's all BS. People who immigrate to the U.S. must pay a lot of money to the Immigration Service and they have to wait quite a while to get here and work here. I wish the legal immigrants would speak up. They are the ones being short changed here. The illegals don't have to pay. We pay for them. White guilt is going to bankrupt us. The limousine liberals the champagne socialists need the illegals to watch their children and scrub the floors after they puke up champagne on them. I don't blame the illegals I blame the rich exploiters. Now we know that they are even bearing the rich man's children. Right Arnold!

Jun. 28 2011 09:56 AM
Elka from NY

Yesterday I received a survey from this station. Within many questions they buried the one question that they truly wanted to ask. On a scale of 1-5... "There is a liberal bias in many public radio programs". That's like asking; "does my butt look fat in this?". You know; if you have to ask you are looking for an accomplice in your denial.

Jun. 28 2011 09:49 AM
NYPAGMAN from Northeast PA

Sounds to me like that Criminal Alien thing is working just fine. Everyone in this country lives according to this countries laws. An illegal, by any other name, is still an illegal. There is due process to deport these people and, from what I have read, some get released on bonds and their own recognizance while in that process just like American citizens.
Secondly, illegals are always afraid of approaching law enforcement. If you live in fear of being removed from the U.S., due to the FACT that you are here illegally, who's really exacerbating the situation? Is it law enforcement trying to maintain the law, or is it these political firestarters like Cuomo, Morgenthau, Viverito, and Peter Markowitz?
The law is the law is the law. I break it, I pay for it. Why should anyone else be treated differently? Oh, by the way, a felony conviction is not an easy distinction, Mr. Morgenthau. How do you suggest ICE deals with repeat misdemeanor offenders? I humbly await your esteemed and well thought out opinion.

Jun. 28 2011 08:36 AM

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