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New York City Taking Steps to Institute its Own Version of Immigration Relief

behind-bars-76714-m.jpgIn the wake of President Obama’s announcement that he will delay executive action on comprehensive immigration reform until after the Congressional November elections, many states expressed their disappointment with the President because the American people and foreign nationals have been waiting for years for any movement on this critical issue.

It seems that New York City is tired of waiting and is taking steps to institute its own version of immigration policy in the coming weeks.

New York City’s Immigration Legislation

According to its speaker, Ms. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the New York City Council has introduced two immigration-related bills that authorize New York City officials to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials in the effort to jail foreign nationals in the city. The bills will also remove currently placed federal immigration officials from New York’s famed Rikers Island.

Specifically, the proposed bill addresses immigration “detainers,” which are requests by federal officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement made to state or local police departments. These requests ask that the departments hold foreign nationals who are suspected of violating immigration law in the state’s jail for up to 48 hours or until the federal agents can pick them up, which often takes days or even weeks.

In some states, the state police view these requests as routine, and they are blindly honored, which effectively transforms the state jail into a holding cell for use by federal immigration officials. Under this first bill proposed by Ms. Mark-Viverito, the New York City Police Department and its Department of Correction would be empowered to stop honoring the detainer requests unless a judge issued a warrant and the foreign national who was the subject of the detainer had been convicted of a serious or violent crime or was suspected of being on a terrorist watch list.

New York City’s Reasoning Behind its Bills

According to the City Council, the impetus behind drafting these bills comes from the realization that federal immigration officials have misplaced enforcement priorities. They are pursuing deportation cases for non-criminal foreign nationals in place of those who have serious or violent criminal records and truly pose a threat to the national security of the United States or the safety of the New York City community.

Additionally, the Council also points out that federal courts have expressed doubts regarding the constitutionality of these immigration detainers. The courts have recently held that these detainers basically imprison foreign nationals without cause, and the detainers, since they are not arrest warrants, are problematic in and of themselves.

Reaction to the Proposed Bills
While nothing is guaranteed in politics, it is likely that the bills will pass. Newly elected mayor Bill de Blasio has already confirmed that he will support the bills after they are introduced into the City Council.

The Rant

In light of President Obama’s delay on immigration reform, it is comforting to see that states are trying to address the lingering problems at the local level. If these bills pass in New York, it is hopeful that other states will follow suit. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date immigration news.

More Blog Posts:

The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012