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New York Should Cooperate Less With Immigration Officials: Mark-Viverito

By Jeff Mays | February 16, 2017 9:46am | Updated on February 17, 2017 5:47pm
 City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viveirto will call for New York City to cooperate even less with immigration authorities during her final State of the City speech in Brooklyn Thursday. Here, she gives her State of the City speech in 2015.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viveirto will call for New York City to cooperate even less with immigration authorities during her final State of the City speech in Brooklyn Thursday. Here, she gives her State of the City speech in 2015.
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New York City Council/William Alatriste

NEW YORK CITY — City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said New York City will cooperate even less with federal immigration authorities during her final State of the City speech Thursday.

New York is already a sanctuary city, which means local authorities don't turn over individuals to federal agents for possible deportation unless certain conditions are met.

Mark-Viverito proposed legislation to take the restrictions a step further by adding the Department of Probation to the list of agencies that limit information shared with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

The legislation would also prohibit the Department of Probation, NYPD, and the Department of Correction from enforcing federal immigration law.

The speaker also wants to limit ICE's access to students, their schools and their records and limit the amount of confidential information the city collects and shares.

ICE agents would also be blocked from certain areas on city property, such as places where residents are receiving social services, without a warrant.

"Three million immigrants live in New York City. They fuel our economy. They propel our city forward. They are an indispensable part of our city’s landscape. And they are absolutely, unquestionably New Yorkers," Mark-Viverito said during her speech before a packed house at Kings Theater in Flatbush.

“We will not abandon our immigrant communities. They are members of our New York family. And we will continue to fight for their rights, safety and security," she added.

The City Council will also introduce legislation to purge summonses for minor offenses that are more than a decade old. There are currently more than 1.5 million arrest warrants our for minor offenses.

"We are a city that believes in justice, not in supporting a broken summons system," said Mark-Viverito.

The speech was a repudiation of the policies of President Donald Trump, although Mark-Viverito never mentioned his name.

"New York has always persevered, no matter the obstacle. Whether defying a King in England or a President in Washington, we stand up for what is right," said Mark-Viverito.

The biggest rejection of Trump's policies in Mark-Viverito's speech came in the plan to further limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Under a 2014 law signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city will only comply with federal detainment requests if there is a probable cause warrant, if the individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony in the last five years or if they are on the terrorist watch list.

The city has a list of 170 crimes that they have classified as serious or violent felonies.

The 2014 legislation, which was sponsored by Mark-Viverito, also removed 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. 

ICE officials were previously stationed at Rikers and other city jails and would routinely check the immigration status of those held there, regardless of the crime they were accused of committing. Those who were believed to be in violation of immigration law were transferred to federal custody.

The issue of cooperation with federal immigration authorities has come up after a series of executive orders from Trump expanded the scope of immigrants that could be deported, including those who have been accused, but not convicted of a crime.

While de Blasio said he is willing to examine the list of 170 offenses to see if more should be added following criticism from Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, Mark-Viverito said that is not on the table.

Trump also signed an executive order that threatened to strip so-called sanctuary cities of federal funding and to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in those places. Another order sought to ban some refugees and restrict travel to the U.S. from people from seven majority-Muslim countries. A federal court placed a stay on the ban.

Fear spread among immigrant communities last week when ICE officials arrested 40 people in New York City and the surrounding area. Immigration officials said most of those taken into custody had criminal convictions.

Queens Councilman I. Daneek Miller, the only Muslim on the City Council, said Mark-Viverito's message will be reassuring to many.

"There is absolute fear from the Muslim community and the immigrant community I represent," said Miller. "It's encouraging and reaffirms some of the work we have already done."

Mark-Viverito also wants to convene sanctuary cities across the country and create an immigrant family resource center in each borough to "support families who have been hurt by harmful immigration policies."

The speaker's address has been a place where she has unveiled major policy initiatives.

In 2015, she called for 1,000 new police officers to help with community policing. The mayor, who was initially resistant, eventually agreed to hire 1,300 new officers.

Last year, Mark-Viverito announced a commission to study closing down Rikers Island, which gave that effort significant momentum.

On Thursday, Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited, also called for free birth control for all New Yorkers, another response to threats from the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood.

"We will not let the federal government dictate what happens to our uteruses," she said.

She also wants a "comprehensive" sex education plan for students in all grades.

On the criminal justice front, Mark-Viverito wants to further reduce the population on Rikers Island and reform the bail system so that individuals who post bail can be released more quickly.

"The idea is simple: cut red tape, remove inefficiencies, and stop the churn of detainees, primarily young men of color, from unnecessary and harmful incarceration," said Mark-Viverito.

Mark-Viverito also announced legislation to protect tenants from harassment that will allow those who win harassment cases in court to seek damages. The acts considered harassment will also be expanded under her proposal.      

Councilman Jumaane Williams, who represents Flatbush, said Mark-Viverito's speech was filled with "common sense" policy ideas that are  "representative" of the country's current politics.

"These are policies that were well-needed before November. I think there's more of a political appetite for them because before it was hard to convince people how bad the situation could become, but now people fully understand that," said Williams.