NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio is willing to add to the list of 170 felony criminal offenses for which the city will work with federal authorities to deport perpetrators.
De Blasio — who has said cooperation with those crimes makes President Donald Trump's executive order threatening to pull funding from sanctuary cities redundant — made the statement during a budget hearing in Albany Monday as part of a testy exchange with Republican state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
"So, for instance, if an individual here conducts sexual misconduct, forcible touching, sexual abuse in the second and third degree, grand larceny, welfare fraud, identity theft — this was just a small list of a much larger list in which the city refuses to comply with detainer requests from the federal government — why would you protect individuals who are here illegally committing these crimes?" she asked the mayor.
"If there are some offenses that we should add, we are willing to do that always," de Blasio replied.
"But I would say anyone in good conscience who reads that list of 170 offenses, which is essentially any acts of violence, anything involving a weapon, anything involving terror, any major drug offenses — it's quite comprehensive — understands the intent is to protect the safety of all New Yorkers."
De Blasio signed the law that identified the 170 offenses in November 2014. The law also removed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials from Rikers Island and all other city facilities, as well as limiting the information the city shared with ICE about people in Department of Correction custody.
Previously, ICE officials at city jails or Rikers Island could check the immigration status of everyone there regardless of the crime they were accused of and transfer those who were believed to be in violation of immigration law to federal custody.
Under the law, in order for the Department of Correction or the NYPD to comply with a federal detainer request, there has to be a probable cause warrant, the individual must be convicted of a serious or violent felony in the last five years or they must be on the terrorist watch list.
From September 2014 to September 2016, New York City received 584 detainer requests from the federal government but only complied with 32, Malliotakis stated.
"My issue is, why would the mayor of the city of New York who is entrusted to protect the safety of our citizenry say that they're not going to comply with these detainer requests," the assemblywoman asked.
De Blasio responded that there is concern that ICE would see even minor offenses such as marijuana possession as a deportable offense.
He called many of the city's 500,000 undocumented immigrants "parents of children or breadwinners for their family."
"Is it right to deport someone who did a very minor offense, leave a family without a breadwinner, leave children without their parents? Is that good public policy? No."
On the city's list of crimes for which it will cooperate with ICE are offenses such as gang assault, stalking, kidnapping, rape and endangering the welfare of a child.
Malliotakis said she was concerned that offenses such as identity fraud, welfare fraud, forcible touching and grand larceny were seemingly not included. But the mayor believes many of those offenses overlap with what is listed and invited the assemblywoman to consult with the city's lawyers.
"When you come up with a list of 170 offenses, if there were several more that should be included, I'm perfectly happy to include them," de Blasio said.
The mayor has been an outspoken critic of Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations and the president's calling for cities that have limited cooperation with immigration authorities to lose federal funding.
De Blasio has said he will sue if the federal government attempts to take away any of the city's funding.
In spite of his strong stance against Trump, de Blasio is taking criticism for refusing to direct the NYPD to arrest people for turnstile jumping as a civil offense as opposed to a criminal one.
Multiple arrests for fare-beating can make even permanent legal residents eligible for deportation.
Currently, 70 percent of people arrested for fare-beating are given a civil summons. But 30 percent, or about 30,000 people in 2015, faced misdemeanor criminal charges.
The mayor could direct the NYPD commissioner to make officers charge people caught fare-beating with a civil offense through a change in the patrol guide. Police currently use their discretion based on a set of criteria when determining whether to slap someone with a civil or criminal charge for fare-beating.
Changing the way police pursue these crimes would spare undocumented immigrants, green card holders and permanent legal residents from deportation, said Queens Councilman Rory Lancman.
"The mayor is being disingenuous when he attacks the president's executive order without using the unilateral authority he has to protect potentially thousands of people a year from the effect of that order," Lancman said.
"Talk is cheap."
De Blasio said on WNYC that Trump's executive order and turnstile jumping were two separate issues.
"We can have a conversation at any point about how our policing strategy should evolve, which is exactly why we ended arrest for low-level marijuana possession in the city," the mayor said.
"But that is its own discussion that should be about what keeps us safe in New York City, not because we fear an executive order that on its face we believe is legally contradictory. Let’s separate those two concepts."