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Senate approves Padavan illegal immigrant bill

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The 48-14 vote in the state Senate on April 19 moved the measure forward, but it is now in committee in the state Assembly, where it died in a previous session.

Under the Padavan bill, the citizenship status of the arrested person would be checked with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the successor to Immigration and Naturalization Services.

"Not only is enforcing cooperation between local law enforcement and federal authorities a matter of national security," Padavan said. "It is also a matter of security in our homes and neighborhoods. The time has come for the Assembly to pass this legislation."

Padavan referred to post-Sept. 11 efforts to increase communication between local and federal law enforcement to thwart terrorism and cited Queens crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Those crimes have included, he said, the gang rape of a woman in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 2002 by a group of illegal aliens and the recent arrests of a loosely affiliated gang of Colombian burglars. They are suspected of breaking into as many as 300 homes in northeast Queens and believed to be illegal immigrants.

"I want to know that these people are being referred to the proper federal authorities and that steps are being taken to get them out of this country," Padavan said.

He said the New York Police Department has not been required to cooperate with federal immigration authorities because of an executive order issued by Ed Koch when he was mayor. Padavan said after the Flushing Meadows gang rape, however, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg rescinded the order, thus allowing the NYPD to work with immigration officials.

Padavan's bill would require cooperation from all state and local police. His legislation was endorsed by fellow Queens state Sens. George Onorato (D-Long Island City), Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) and Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) but opposed by Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Ada Smith (D-Jamaica) and John Sabini (D-Jackson Heights).

Sabini said he opposed the bill because the NYPD was not consulted beforehand and because it would send a "chilling effect" on the reporting of crimes in immigrant communities.

Padavan said other opponents have called his legislation anti-immigrant and discriminatory, a characterization with which he disagreed.

"This isn't about profiling," Padavan said. "It's about taking people already being charged with a crime and checking out their immigration status." Padavan served as chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Immigration, and he and other state officials sued the federal government in 1995 for failing to keep out illegal immigrants, a lapse they said cost their states money. The same year he also introduced legislation to prevent the state from using its funds for health, education and welfare services for illegal aliens.

He said the current bill is necessary to protect the public.

"If the Assembly doesn't pass this legislation, they owe an explanation and an apology to every victim of a crime perpetrated by an illegal immigrant with a prior arrest record in New York state," Padavan said.

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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