With the U.S. Supreme Court decision not to block the deportation of legal immigrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere, New York City has taken steps to protect its immigrant population. The Council of the City of New York passed a bill Monday that will prevent police there from forwarding cases of immigrants charged with minor crimes to U.S. federal authorities.
Under the current law, immigrants who have an aggravated felony on their record are to be deported without exception. The Supreme Court justices upheld the law by a count of 7-2 in the case of Chaidez vs. United States.
The New York City law would protect immigrants in the city by preventing charges from reaching immigration officials. Police officers were previously mandated to send fingerprints of arrested immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prior to conviction.
“When your fingerprints are taken at arrest, you’re charged. You’re not guilty,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, according to the New York Daily News.
“Immigrants without criminal records and those who do not through any legitimate evidence appear to pose a threat to public safety are being needlessly deported, unnecessarily damaging families and communities, unnecessarily tearing communities apart,” she added.
In heavily policed areas like New York City, a number of legal immigrants face the possibility of deportation because of policies such as “stop-and-frisk” searches, which can lead to charges against otherwise nonthreatening residents.
Though the possibility of allowing citizenship for illegal immigrants has become a pressing political issue, legal immigrants remain vulnerable to discrimination. The possibility of deportation for nonviolent offenses is a lingering threat for legal immigrants, regardless of the amount of time they have lived in the U.S.
Legal immigrants who pleaded guilty to felony charges like driving under the influence in the past will be at risk for deportation as well.
New York’s decision to protect the city’s immigrants may be mirrored in other cities with large legal immigrant populations.