Saturday, May 12, 2012

NY State to join data sharing program

Fingerprints collected by the New York Police Department and submitted to the FBI will be shared with immigration officials once a controversial federal program opposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and other city officials is activated in the state next week, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official.

Cuomo withdrew New York from the Secure Communities program last June, noting that it failed to meet its stated goal to “deport serious felons.”

But after some contradicting statements related to whether the program was mandatory, the Department of Homeland Security’s principal investigative arm, ICE, said last year states could not opt-out of the program and that it would be implemented nationwide by 2013, rendering the governor’s decision ineffective.

The program has already been activated in 50 percent of the state, including Nassau, Dutchess and Westchester counties.

On Tuesday, the rest of the state, including New York City, will become a part of the program.

 “Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators,” an ICE spokesman said in a statement.

According to ICE, Secure Communities has helped ICE remove more than 135,000 convicted criminal aliens including more than 49,000 convicted of major violent offenses like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children.

Critics of the program argued that it ensnared victims of domestic violence, individuals with no criminal record and low-level offenders.

Immigration advocates, who applauded Cuomo’s decision last summer, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision made by ICE.

“We are very concerned about the Department of Homeland Security’s insistence on moving forward in light of the strong opposition against it,” said Jackie Esposito, director of Immigration Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

Esposito said the changes ICE made to the Secure Communities program, after it was criticized, were not substantial. According to its new policy, for example, the agency will take into its custody individuals arrested solely for minor traffic violations only if they are convicted.

Department of Homeland Security said last year that state and local jurisdictions could not terminate their participation in Secure Communities because it is essentially an information-sharing program between two federal agencies: the FBI and DHS.

That means the fingerprints local law enforcement agencies, such as the NYPD, submit to the FBI for routine criminal history checks will also be shared with DHS and checked against immigration databases. If ICE decides an arrested individual is of interest, the agency determines what enforcement action to take.

A spokesman for the Governor’s office said they were monitoring the developments around the program.


California immigration plan to legalize workers faces hurdles

In the past two years, Arizona and five other red states made national waves and raised constitutional questions by passing laws designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Now, lawmakers in the biggest blue state are poised to focus the immigration spotlight in another direction.

A bill quietly moving through California's Legislature would grant state work permits to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who are already harvesting fields, cleaning offices and preparing fast-food.

Frustrated that comprehensive immigration reform is a non-starter in Congress, proponents say the bill would allow California to solve a problem worsened by federal inaction.

"We believe we can become the model," said Manuel Pérez, a Democratic Assembly member who represents the Coachella and Imperial valleys. "The state of California, up until this point, really has been silent on this issue."

Pérez's bill, AB1544, which has already cleared a key Assembly committee, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates the constitutionality of Arizona's 2-year-old immigration law, which directs local police and sheriffs to enforce U.S. immigration laws.

During recent oral arguments, the court's conservative majority sent out strong signals that it may support key elements of the Arizona law.

"If the Supreme Court says states can make some of their own policies -- if it upholds that -- I would expect you would see not just the enforcement  stuff, but this kind of law as well," UC Davis economist Phil Martin, who studies agriculture and immigration, said referring to AB1544.

Many states are likely to follow Arizona's tough approach, which was partially inspired by California's voter-approved Proposition 187 in 1994. The law, which would have kicked undocumented children out of school and denied their parents most public benefits, was overturned by the courts because California was seen as usurping the federal government's immigration authority.

But some states could also use a states'-rights argument to push their states to the left on immigration.

The California bill is being opposed by suburban Republicans but buoyed by a tenuous alliance between liberal Democrats and conservative rural business interests.

Bipartisan cooperation would strengthen the message, but California Democrats don't need Republican support to pass the bill, Pérez said.

California lawmakers are not the first to try to legalize undocumented workers. Utah passed legislation in March 2011 that would legalize some immigrant workers if the Department of Homeland Security granted a waiver -- which it never did.

Oklahoma state Sen. Harry Coates, a Republican, introduced a similar bill in December after a state crackdown forced many illegal immigrant workers south to Texas, hurting Oklahoma's construction industry.

But Coates said his bill is not getting anywhere because immigration is too toxic in an election year.  "My colleagues don't want to touch a hot potato like this," Coates said. "Every state's just trying to fend for themselves."

Pérez may have more luck in California, but the legislation could be merely symbolic if the federal government refuses to authorize the plan.  Still, even a new law blocked by the federal government could force the country into a larger discussion.

"I think," Puglia said, "this is about shining as many bright lights as possible on the stagnation that surrounds the immigration debate in Congress."


No comments:

Post a Comment