Rep. Gutierrez, National Leader for Immigration Reform, Joins In Support for City Council Legislation

New York, NY – Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Charles Rangel, Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Daniel Dromm, Council Members, Make the Road New York and a number of immigration rights advocates, today gathered to celebrate recent developments of a landmark bill that will change the way the Department of Correction works with the federal immigration authorities and reduce unnecessary immigrant deportations in New York City.

The elected officials gathered on the eve of a Council hearing set for Monday, October 3rd, to discuss Intro 656, which would limit the city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities by creating a category of persons for whom the Department of Correction will not detain for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It has the support of 38 Council Members and the administration.

“We need to stop needlessly and excessively deporting people who have had no prior criminal records, said Speaker Quinn. “Since our bill was introduced we’ve had productive discussions with the Bloomberg administration. We are pleased that they’ve agreed to support our legislation that will reduce unjust deportations. This is an important victory for all New Yorkers particularly our City’s immigrant community.”

“As a city that values the contributions of our immigrant communities, we can no longer allow immigration agents to have unfettered access to inmates in our city’s jails,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This piece of legislation ensures that law enforcement officials can continue to keep our neighborhoods safe without threatening their relationships with immigrant communities or needlessly separating immigrant families. I am honored to welcome Congressman Luis Gutierrez to my district today and thank him for demonstrating his support of this legislation. As one of the nation’s leading advocates for immigration reform, his endorsement speaks volumes to the importance of this piece of legislation. I also thank the Speaker for her leadership on this issue as well as Make the Road New York and all of the advocates for their hard work on this bill.”

“No group is more interested in getting dangerous criminals out of immigrant communities than immigrants themselves, because they are often the victims of the crimes,” said Congressman Luis Gutiterrez. “But we must make sure that we focus limited resources and severe punishments at those who have committed serious crimes or pose a threat and away from families, young people, and individuals who are working hard and trying to play by the rules. In the end, there is only so much that can be done under current law and we know Congress must reform the laws themselves to make serious progress towards ending illegal immigration and promoting a safe and orderly legal immigration system for the future.”

“What they are doing at Rikers is running an alien program rather than a criminal alien program,” said Daniel Dromm, Chair of the NYC Council’s Committee on Immigrant Affairs. “Many innocent immigrants are unfairly being detained and deported because of this broken immigration system. We cannot allow the cooperation between ICE and the DOC to continue tearing families apart and destabilizing immigrant communities that pose no threat to public safety.”

“America has always shined as the beacon of hope and land of opportunity for people around the world,” said Congressman Charles Rangel. “Our country is stronger because of hard-working people who believe in the greatness of the American Dream and the immigrants who contribute to the success of our nation in every corner. We need a sensible immigration policy that will allow some of the best and the brightest students to earn a pathway to citizenship, and provide opportunities for those upstanding individuals to have a chance to continue to help make America greater. I applaud City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito for their leadership roles in pushing for legislation that will reduce unnecessary immigrant deportations in New York City.”
“Today’s press conference with Speaker Quinn and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) sends a powerful message that the City should not be subsidizing federal immigration policies that erode trust between immigrant communities and government and threaten public safety by scaring immigrants out of reporting crimes and communicating with the government.,” said Javier H. Valdes, Deputy Director, Make the Road New York. “The hearing tomorrow on the proposed legislation by the Speaker and CM Mark-Viverito is a critical step forward toward protecting New York families and ensuring cooperation between immigrant communities and local police.”
Currently, the Department Of Correction is part of the Criminal Alien Program (CAP). The purpose of CAP is to identify criminal non-citizens who are incarcerated within federal state and local facilities to ensure that they are not released into the community by securing a final order of removal prior to the termination of their sentence. Coincidently, CAP in the city has led to the detention and removal of some criminals but also many of those that do not have a criminal record.

According to the Department of Correction, 13,295 foreign born persons were admitted into DOC facilities in 2010. ICE placed detainers on 3,155 of those inmates and subsequently took custody of 2,552 of those inmates for potential deportation. Of the inmates that were discharged from DOC to the custody of ICE in 2010, 49.5% had no prior criminal conviction. Only 20.8% had a prior felony conviction and 20.6% had a misdemeanor as their highest prior conviction.

“The Black, Latino and Asian Caucus applaud Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito and Make the Road New York for their leadership in helping to bring this bill to fruition. Thanks to their efforts, immigrants that contribute to our city everyday, can breathe a bit easier about a local government that serves to protect and not harm its most vulnerable residents. We hope that municipalities across the nation adopt similar legislation as a key step in supporting true immigration reform” stated Co-Chairs Robert Jackson and Fernando Cabrera.

“Today, I am proud to stand with Speaker Quinn, Congressman Gutierrez, Congressman Rangel, Senator Espaillat and my colleagues at the NYC Council in support of Intro 656. This piece of legislation will be crucial in keeping thousands of families in New York City together by addressing a flawed policy used by ICE at Rikers Island. I hope that the momentum behind this legislation will spark a deep conversation on necessary and comprehensive immigration reform in this nation,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
“New York City shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing the federal government’s broken deportation system. So why is the Department of Corrections spending our tax dollars to indiscriminately feed our friends and neighbors into an unfair deportation system? We applaud the Speaker and the Council for the steps they are taking toward reforming that practice,” stated Sam Solomon, Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, Cardozo School of Law.
“We applaud Speaker Quinn’s decision to move us toward ending the collaboration between New York City and ICE,” said Rev. Robert Coleman, Chief Program Minister of the historic Riverside Church. “New York City has always been a beacon of hope and opportunity for millions around the world, and Speaker Quinn’s action brings us one step closer to achieving God’s dream of a beloved community here on earth.”

“Our immigrant congregations are grateful that Speaker Quinn has taken the first step in stopping New York City from helping ICE separate families,” said Rev. Fabian Arias of Zion St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. “For too long we have seen our communities broken apart by harsh and unforgiving immigration policies, so we thank God for Speaker Quinn’s courage to stand up for the rights of families.”

New York City is home to approximately 2.9 million immigrants. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, New York City’s population grew by 2.1% in the past decade with the largest Hispanic population in the country. Immigrants are considered to be a significant part of the City’s working population, accounting for 43% of the City’s overall workforce. Additionally, immigrants accounted for $215 billion in economic activity in 2009, or 32% of the City’s total revenue.