Blog Archive

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Governor Called On to Ease Deportation Fears

By Tara MacIsaac
The Epoch Times
Nov 18, 2010

NEW YORK—Gov. David Paterson’s immigration policies have been a double-edged sword for New York’s millions of immigrants.

On May 3, Paterson took a trailblazing step in creating the first-ever Immigrant Pardon Board, which aimed to protect immigrants from wrongful deportation. A week later, the governor signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to participate in the federal government’s Secure Communities Initiative that many immigrant advocates say will dramatically increase the incidence of wrongful deportation.

Paterson has not made a public statement in response to the continuing pressure from immigrant advocates regarding Secure Communities.

“While we are very cognizant of the civil rights of immigrants, we are equally cognizant of the fact that this state is a premier target for terrorism,” said state official John M. Cahe, according to a WYNC report from last month.

Council members Ydanis Rodriguez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Daniel Dromm rallied with immigrant advocates in Federal Plaza Wednesday to call on Paterson and his successor Andrew Cuomo to protect the state’s immigrant population.

“Immigration policies such as the Secure Communities program will lead to unjust detentions and deportations that will only make for insecure communities and destabilize our immigrant families,” said Councilman Dromm in a press release.

The aim of Secure Communities is to identify and deport criminals who are illegal immigrants. Local law enforcement will share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate this identification. All fingerprints on file will be funneled through the Department of Homeland Security to ICE, leading to the trial and deportation of these law-breaking individuals.

However, illegal immigrants who may have committed no crime or only a minor crime are also getting deported because of the program.

According a WNYC report, ICE records indicate that “79 percent of individuals deported through the Secure Communities program from October 2008 through June 2010 had no criminal record or were arrested for minor offenses like traffic violations.”

“The Department of Homeland Security can inform the local enforcement agency that they should not release that person, even if there are no charges or the charges have been dropped, so that they can start deportation proceedings,” said Angela Fernandez, an immigrant advocate, according to WNYC.

Fears of deportation reign in the immigrant community. Immigrants make up 68 percent of Councilman Dromm’s district, where he said they have come into his office wrought with worry.

“They are terrified of having any involvement with the police, because they are afraid, despite mayoral orders, that if they have any contact with the police department they may be deported. … They are afraid [that] even if they jaywalk, they will be arrested, their fingerprints will be taken, and deportation proceedings will be initiated against them,” said Dromm.

The Immigrant Pardon Board is in place to provide non-citizens with a platform to dispute unjust immigration rulings for criminals. Though Paterson has taken this precaution upon entering into the Secure Communities agreement, immigrant advocates call on him to suspend collaboration with ICE until the program is fine-tuned to only nab illegal immigrants that are a danger to society.

Added to the fear that prevails in the immigrant community is the confusion pervading the enactment of Secure Communities. Paterson's MOA “enables” local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE but does not require such cooperation, explained Nicholas Katz of the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic.

NYPD did not respond to inquiries about the extent of their participation as of press deadline.

Cuomo told La Diaro La Prensa in an interview before the midterm elections that he would “revise” the MOA, said Councilman Rodriguez.

Though immigrant advocates laud Paterson’s efforts in creating the Immigration Pardon Board, they hope he will work to ease their fears by rescinding from the MOA with ICE. They also call on Governor-Elect Cuomo to continue the innovative Immigration Pardon Board and make good on his promise of revising the MOA.