11/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time to De-ICE the Department of Corrections

The collision of the immigration and criminal justice systems has been, more often than not, to the detriment of the immigrant involved. Recently it was announced that Dora Schriro was appointed as commissioner of corrections for New York City. I hope that one of the top items on her agenda will be the removal of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from New York City's jails.

It is well established that many immigrants are picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during run of the mill jail sweeps, resulting in mass deportations. After the arrest or detention of an immigrant, law enforcement officials in New York preform status checks on behalf of ICE. Then ICE can issue detainers on immigrants deemed deportable.

The Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants' Rights released a report entitled Deportado, Dominicano y Humano, which examines the impact of deportation on the Dominican community. According to the report,

In order to clamp detainers on to individuals, ICE employs subterfuge-like tactics to get inmates and pre-trial detainees into meetings with officials and to extract information out of the interviewees. The screening process lacks transparency; individuals questioned about their immigration status receive no notice ... No system or policy exists to notify an inmate of his detainer or imminent transfer to immigration custody ... Instead of being released upon completion of their sentences, inmates who have detainers are transferred to ICE detention where with few exceptions, they are held for an indefinite period awaiting the outcome of their immigration proceedings.

Moreover, once detained, ICE can transfer an immigrant from one part of the country to another at any time.

As Dr. Schriro departs the new Office of Detention and Policy Planning for her post as commissioner of corrections, her arrival has been welcomed by groups such as the New Sanctuary Movement. Earlier this week, the coalition issued a statement as follows:

On behalf of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, we offer welcome and blessings to Dora B. Schriro, as she embarks on her new journey as Commissioner of New York City's Department of Corrections (DOC). As people of faith, we are excited at the prospect of working with such a committed public servant who understands that every person deserves their basic rights and dignity.

Her predecessor, Commissioner Martin Horn, took bold steps to ensure that the rights of all detainees and inmates, in particular our immigrant brothers and sisters, are observed. From now on, before being interviewed by ICE, detainees will have to sign a form before consenting to the interview and guards will be given training so that they can make detainees aware that the interviews are voluntary.

While we honor the courage of Commissioner Horn, we are still saddened by the ongoing tragedies we witness of families being separated because of ICE's presence in DOC facilities. We look forward to Commissioner Schriro both upholding and building upon Commissioner Horn's work so that the rights of all New Yorkers are protected and we have policies that honor and celebrate the sanctity of families.

Detention of immigrants need not result in denial of due process.

Arlene M. Roberts is the author of "The Faces of Detention and Deportation: A Report on the Forced Repatriation of Immigrants from the English-Speaking Caribbean."