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De Blasio Defends Expanded Cooperation With ICE For 'Serious Crimes'

An agent with the Department of Homeland Security denies access to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to the holding facility for immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, near the Mexican border in June 2018.
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An agent with the Department of Homeland Security denies access to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to the holding facility for immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, near the Mexican border in June 2018. Andres Leighton/AP/Shutterstock

Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his plan to expand the list of crimes for which the city will turn immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), despite complaints by some advocates.

Under a local law, the police and jails will already cooperate with ICE if they've detained someone convicted of any these 170 violent crimes. De Blasio said it’s appropriate to add seven more to that list because of state legislation since the 2014 law went into effect.

“These include crimes such as sex trafficking of a child or patronizing a child prostitute,” de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Friday. “These are serious, serious crimes.”

An immigrant would need to have been convicted of one of these crimes for the NYPD or jails to turn them over to ICE after a detainer request. “We do not cooperate, for example, on quality of life offenses, minor offenses” de Blasio told WNYC. This policy is the reason New York is described as a sanctuary city.

However, Brooklyn City Councilman Carlos Menchaca issued a statement opposing the plan after it was reported by Politico on Thursday.

“The proclaimed public safety benefits of this proposal do not outweigh its harms — namely the erosion of trust between our immigrant communities and government,” he said. Menchaca chairs the council’s immigration committee and also accused the mayor of playing politics as he considers a potential run for president.

“The well being of New York City’s immigrant families should not be a tool to advance anyone’s political agenda.”

De Blasio called that allegation “ridiculous.” He noted that the original bill was passed with the City Council in 2014, and that the seven new laws are being added through an administrative action—without Council approval—because they’re serious offenses that have since been added to state law.

“It has nothing to do with anything political, it has to do with the fact these new laws were passed.”

He said a person found guilty of sex trafficking of a child, for example, has committed a serious crime. And he said the city could cooperate with ICE in these rare examples while also remaining firm in its protection of immigrants.

“It’s so clear that this is a city that respects and embraces immigrants regardless of documentation status,” he said, noting the city also funds legal services for immigrants. De Blasio said he still believes ICE is “a broken” agency.

When Lehrer asked if that’s a reason for the city to stop cooperating with ICE completely, the mayor insisted, “if someone is convicted through full due process” of a violent crime that’s different than being charged with a crime, or convicted of lesser offenses.

Make the Road New York has also criticized the mayor’s stand. Some immigrant advocates believe the city needs to take a stronger position against ICE because of the Trump administration’s ramped up immigration enforcement, which has snagged many undocumented immigrants with no criminal backgrounds, or who were charged but not convicted of crimes.

Last fall, an appellate court found local police officers in New York state can't detain immigrants beyond their scheduled release date solely to turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, without a judicial warrant.

Last month, New York State’s court system banned ICE agents from making arrests in its buildings without a judicial warrant.

Beth Fertig is a senior reporter covering courts and legal affairs at WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethfertig.

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