Capping off an exciting weekend of events with Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the City Council held its first hearing this week on the bill introduced by Melissa that will limit immigration agents’ reach in our city’s jails. The Bloomberg administration now supports the bill, paving the way for its passage by the end of the year.
This past Saturday, we welcomed Congressman Luis Gutierrez to New York City. He spoke at an event in Staten Island on the importance of immigration reform, emphasizing the impact of the Secure Communities program and the changes to federal policies on deportation.
On Sunday, Congressman Gutierrez joined Melissa, Speaker Quinn, Congressman Rangel, Make the Road New York, and many other electeds and community members at Ascension Church on West 107th Street in Melissa’s district. Following the 9:30 am Spanish language mass, the elected officials addressed the congregants and then held a press conference outside to celebrate the advancement of Intro 656, a bill introduced by Melissa that will restrict the collaboration between the City’s Department of Correction and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Congressman Gutierrez spoke highly of the legislation and stressed the importance of local and national collaboration on immigration reform.
Video from Saturday and Sunday’s events are available by clicking here.
Finally, on Monday, the City Council held a hearing on Intro 656. This legislation is truly pathbreaking, and we hope that it will pave the way for municipal immigration reform all around the country. The hearing included testimony from the Bloomberg administration that it stood in support of the legislation as the proper balance between ensuring the security of our neighborhoods and protecting our city’s immigrants. The bill is scheduled to be passed before the end of 2011.
As lead sponsor of the legislation, Melissa had the opportunity to offer some opening remarks:
Thank you Chair Dromm, and thanks to all of you for being here this morning. This is a historic day, as we take one more step towards making this legislation a reality in the city of New York. I want to take a moment to thank Speaker Quinn who has shown great leadership on this issue and of course all of the advocates, especially Make the Road New York, for your commitment, strong support and hard work.
The message throughout this process has been clear: in a city that truly values its immigrant communities, it is clear that we can no longer allow immigration agents to have unfettered access to inmates at Rikers Island. While the Criminal Alien Program, which is the basis for the relationship between DOC and ICE, claims to place public safety first and focus on the most dangerous criminals, the numbers tell a different story.
Of the Rikers inmates who had a detainer placed on them by ICE, around 50 percent had no previous criminal convictions; and only roughly 20 percent had a misdemeanor as their highest charge. These are not the hardened criminals that the Criminal Alien Program was meant to target. Still, every year, hundreds and even thousands of New Yorkers are separated from their families and communities for extended periods of time and, in some cases, permanently.
This is wrong but it has persisted due to the collaboration between DOC and ICE. Intro 656, which I have sponsored with Speaker Quinn and CM Dromm would fundamentally change that relationship, by prohibiting the use of city resources to hold individuals on detainers that do not pose a real threat to public safety.
The process that got us to where we are today has been a long one. We took great care to craft a piece of legislation that will balance the safety of our communities with the need to reform the city’s participation in our nation’s broken immigration system.
I look forward to the Commissioner’s testimony and thank the Chair for holding this hearing and for serving as a co-lead sponsor on this piece of legislation.