Melissa released the following response to the Mayor’s comments on marijuana arrest policy and stop and frisk:
“In today’s State of the City Address, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to change the city’s marijuana arrest policy while we await action by the State Legislature to finally decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view. Under the new policy, anyone who is able to present identification and clear a warrant check will be released with a desk appearance ticket, rather than being held in custody overnight.
“This policy shift is greatly encouraging and a step in the right direction. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly for recognizing the fundamental problem with the city’s marijuana arrest policy, which has resulted in record numbers of arrests – up to around 50,000 per year – of mostly black and Latino males. The way the city has carried out this policy in recent years is a corruption of the intent of state law, which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago. I still recall a time when we were not seeing this level of openness within the administration and the NYPD to look at what the City could do to reduce the number of marijuana arrests. I also thank the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL-NY and all of the advocates who have brought this issue to the forefront, and I look forward to continuing to advocate for this change at the state level to completely end small-time marijuana arrests.
“In spite of the welcome news on marijuana arrests, I was disappointed by the Mayor’s delusional defense of the city’s stop and frisk policy. The suggestion that without our current stop and frisk policy New York’s murder rate would equal Detroit’s is absurd and unfounded. It is time to stop irresponsibly cultivating fear as a way of drumming up support for this policy, which has damaged community-police relations and has made our young black and Latino men feel more alienated than ever.”
The State of the City Address doesn’t begin until around the 35-minute mark.
Today, Melissa joined her colleagues in announcing a new legislative action that will reduce the unjust deportations of immigrant families due to the federal Secure Communities program. Building on legislation sponsored by Melissa which became law last year, the two new pieces of legislation that will be introduced this month will limit the city’s ability to hand over immigrants who pose no threat to public safety for deportation proceedings. Melissa is the lead sponsor of one of the two new bills, which should receive a hearing within the first quarter of 2013. The other bill is sponsored by Speaker Christine Quinn.
Because of the current Secure Communities program in NYC, once an immigrant encounters the criminal justice system, they are at automatic risk of deportation. Under the current system, regardless of immigration status, age, criminal record or the accused crime, immigrants can be detained and deported – constantly living in fear. With this proposed legislation, the city would only be able to honor a detainer request from the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) if the person poses a threat to our city or has serious criminal charges pending. It would specifically ensure that immigrant youth and individuals that only have old or very minor convictions, or convictions directly related to their immigration status like driving without a license, are not funneled into the deportation system.
“New York City continues to be at the forefront of protecting our immigrant communities from unjust deportations. I am proud that this Council is again ushering through legislation that expands our city’s ability to have discretion in its collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. This legislation comes in response to the forced roll out of Secure Communities in our state, which threatens to funnel immigrant New Yorkers directly from central booking to deportation centers. We must extend to our police precincts the same protections we put in place in our city’s jails to prevent the unfair deportation of immigrant New Yorkers. We also want to strengthen the current law to ensure that immigrant youth and immigrants with old or minor convictions are clearly protected from deportation. I thank Speaker Christine Quinn and Immigration Chair Danny Dromm for their leadership, as well as Make the Road New York and the Cardozo Law School for their continued advocacy.”
This legislation will surely serve as a model for other municipalities throughout the U.S. as we await for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We will keep you all updated on this piece of legislation.