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How Trump's New Deportation Rules Could Affect New York City Immigrants

By Jeff Mays | February 23, 2017 2:45pm
 Advocates say new immigration rules from the Trump Administration make it easier to deport immigrants with less judicial oversight.
Advocates say new immigration rules from the Trump Administration make it easier to deport immigrants with less judicial oversight.
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DNAinfo/Nick Hirshon

NEW YORK CITY — The Trump administration's plans to more aggressively enforce immigration laws have many worried they may face deportation even if they haven't committed a crime.

Rumors, scams and vague information swirl around the issue here in New York City. Here are the facts:

How many people were deported under President Barack Obama?

Obama deported a record 2.5 million people during his eight-year tenure.

What was the focus of Obama's immigration policy?

Obama's focus was on undocumented individuals who had been convicted of a violent or serious crime. Undocumented immigrants who may have been caught in a federal sweep, but who had no criminal conviction, could be released.

"Obama put a low priority on undocumented people who had no interaction with the criminal justice system," said Angela Fernandez, executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

How is President Donald Trump's policy different from Obama's?

New guidelines issued by the Dept. of Homeland Security call for enforcement agencies to "prioritize removable aliens" who are "charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved." Also, just entering the country illegally is considered an immediately deportable offense.

The guidelines say "prosecutorial discretion shall not be exercised in a manner that exempts or excludes a specified class or category of aliens from enforcement of the immigration laws."

Under the Obama Administration, only those undocumented immigrants caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border and who had been here for 14 days or less were subject to immediate "expedited removal" without the benefit of having their case heard before a judge.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security wants to expand expedited removals to anyone who is in the country illegally for two years or less.

The burden of proof is on the person in custody to show an immigration officer "that they have been continuously physically present" in the U.S. for two years "prior to the determination of their inadmissibility."

The memo issues no guidelines on what acceptable proof of continuous presence in the U.S. would be.

"How do they determine and decide who's been in the country for two years or less?" said Fernandez.

What do advocates say the new policies mean?

New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the new guidelines have "dramatically expanded the number of immigrant New Yorkers" eligible for deportation. "These new rules will result in thousands of lives being ruined and families being torn apart."

Many advocates also believe the guidelines violate immigrants' rights to due process.

Why are some immigrants afraid?

Queens Councilman I. Daneek Miller, the City Council's only Muslim, said his office was dealing with calls from people who are afraid of unfounded allegations of immigration sweeps in public areas.

"People are deeply concerned," said Miller. "Under Obama there seemed to be detailed circumstances under which people could be deported. Now it feels like you can almost be convicted of jaywalking and be deported."

Have there been immigration sweeps in the city?

Federal immigration officials detained 41 undocumented immigrants in the New York area earlier in February, picking up people from Bushwick, Staten Island and Elmhurst in a series of raids, officials said.

Have there been immigration checkpoints?

There have been rumors of immigration checkpoints in the city, but DNAinfo New York has not been able to verify their existence. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a "fraud alert" warning New Yorkers of scam artists posing as immigration officials.

A woman contacted City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office to report that her husband was approached on 65th Street and 38th Avenue in Queens by four men wearing uniforms who claimed to be Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

They told the man they would arrest him unless he paid them, and the man handed them $250 in cash.

Schneiderman said anyone who believes they are the victim of an immigration scam should call his office


What else do the new immigration guidelines say?

The Dept. of Homeland Security calls for Immigration Customs Enforcement to "hire 10,000 officers and agents expeditiously" to help with deportation.

The federal government also wants to ramp up the use of a controversial rule called the 287(g) program that allows local law enforcement officials to arrest people just for being in the country illegally.

Will the NYPD participate in 287(g)?

New York City is a so-called "sanctuary city" where immigration status is not a barrier from receiving social services or attending school. New York City law prevents the NYPD from cooperating with federal authorities in deportation efforts unless an individual has been convicted of one of 170 felony offenses considered to be serious or violent in the last five years, there is a probable cause warrant or they are on the terrorist watch list.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed legislation last week to further reduce the cooperation of local law enforcement with immigration authorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD will not cooperate with immigration authorities on deportation efforts even at the risk of losing federal funding.

"We are not going to allow our police officers to be used as immigrant enforcement agents," de Blasio said in January.

Why won't the NYPD help federal immigration authorities arrest undocumented immigrants?

The NYPD has said that if it helps with deportations, it will scare away undocumented immigrants who may otherwise have come forward with information that could help solve a crime.

City Councilman Rory Lancman, who represents a diverse district in Queens, worries that fear will lead the immigrant community to not cooperate with police and could "cost people their lives" in some cases.

"The unleashing of ICE agents throughout government causes people to be afraid to interact with government at any level," he said. "That could be cooperating with the district attorney or police to get a restraining order against an abusive partner or even just going to the emergency room."

What do the new rules mean for children of undocumented parents?

The parents and family members of unaccompanied minors living in the U.S. could now face deportation and criminal charges for human trafficking.

"The parents and family members of these children, who are often illegally present in the United States, often pay smugglers several thousand dollars to bring their children into this country," according to the Homeland Security guidelines. They also say the practice puts the children at danger of sexual assault, robbery, extortion or kidnapping.

Fernandez called the guidelines "mean-spirited" to immigrant families.

"The system was already inhumane," she said. "Now this will ratchet it up."

Noah Hurowitz contributed reporting