Local Government Unhappy with Federal Immigration Policy, Adopts Policy To Frustrate Immigration Enforcement

August 2nd, 2011

No, I’m not talking about Arizona, and SB 1070. I’m talking about New York City.

A proposed bill in New York City would limit the ability of Rikers Island to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

From the Times:

Rikers Island officials have long compiled lists of foreign-born inmates who end up in their custody. They routinely give this information to federal immigration officials, who have their own office at the jail. Deportations often follow.

With the city’s assistance, immigration authorities annually detain and deport thousands of inmates charged with a range of offenses, from misdemeanors for theft to felony drug dealing.

But now the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, wants to curtail this practice by permitting the jail to cooperate with the federal immigration authorities only in limited circumstances.

Ms. Quinn is proposing legislation, to be introduced this month, that could touch off tensions over immigrant rights between the City Council and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has defended the program in the past.

“On Rikers, there is a dragnet as it relates to every foreign-born person,” Ms. Quinn said. “Stop needlessly and excessively deporting people.”

Ms. Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat who is a candidate for mayor in 2013, added that she had deep support on the City Council, saying, “I could pass this bill and override a veto.”

Opponents said the bill would improperly tie the hands of immigration officers, threatening public safety and weakening federal law.

The role of states and localities in immigration enforcement is a highly contentious issue across the United States. Some jurisdictions assert that the federal government has not done enough and have tightened their own laws. Others have characterized the federal response as overbearing, and refused to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In June, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suspended New York’s participation in a key federal program, called Secure Communities, that makes it easier for immigration authorities to access the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local jail and to begin deportation proceedings against noncitizens.

Of course the intent of New York’s bill is the exact opposite of Arizona’s–the former aims to frustrate federal immigration enforcement, the latter aims to supplement it–but from a federalism point of view, is there much of a difference (forgetting about nuances of preemption for a moment)?

H/T Militza