11/14/2014 06:11 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2014

New York City Just Made It Harder For Feds To Detain Immigrants

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill Friday that will further restrict the city’s cooperation with immigration authorities who try to detain undocumented immigrants picked up by local cops for other reasons.

The law, championed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem), moves New York further along a path toward shielding undocumented immigrants from federal authorities, as deportations continue in the absence of reform.

“This is an important moment for our city’s immigrant community,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “This bill sends a strong message that while our nation’s leaders have dragged their feet on immigration reform, New York City can and will lead.”

Under current procedures, when a person is arrested for an offense, local authorities share their fingerprints with federal law enforcement officials. If that person is discovered to be residing in the United States illegally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then issue a request to hold the person on ICE’s behalf for 48 hours. In practice, ICE detainers may result in confinement for much longer periods.

The courts have established that ICE detainers constitute nothing more than a request and localities may choose whether or not to comply with them. More than 200 local jurisdictions, along with the state of California, have placed restrictions on when they will hand an immigrant over to ICE, according to de Blasio's office.

Under the new legislation, New York will only detain an undocumented immigrant for ICE if a judge issues a warrant because that person has a “violent or serious” crime on his or her record from some time in the last five years, or if the person appears on a terrorism watchlist. New York law enforcement may still comply with detainers for those who have committed a serious crime after being deported and reentering illegally, regardless of whether five years have passed.

A statement from de Blasio’s office said the new policy will prevent between 2,000 and 3,000 immigrants from facing detention due to ICE requests.

ICE will also get booted from its office on Rikers Island.

New York has twice limited the conditions under which it will detain immigrants on behalf of ICE since 2011. But critics argued that a long list of exemptions, including for people who face charges for some types of misdemeanors, watered down the effectiveness of the legislation.



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