Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

The Juniper Park Civic Association will host a news conference outside City Hall to show its opposition to a bill City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) recently co-sponsored that would protect certain illegal immigrants from being deported.

“I think it is an insult to have our councilwoman as a co-sponsor,” said Robert Holden, president of the civic. “How could she do this?”

The bill would spare deportation for illegal immigrants in Rikers Island who have no prior arrests and have not been charged with a crime.

“Crowley thinks we don’t have enough criminals in New York City and the state, that we should take some from other countries,” he said to cheers from the roughly 50 people gathered at the bimonthly meeting. “Does anybody feel we should protect criminals who are in this country illegally?”

No one said yes.

A member of the civic read a statement from City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), who is also opposed to the bill and, according to Holden, will join in the rally along with City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

The legislation, also co-sponsored by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), would modify an agreement that the city has with the federal government when it comes to prisoners on Rikers.

If a person sent to Rikers is currently found to be an illegal immigrant, the city tells U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under an agreement called the Criminal Alien Program.

ICE agents, who have an office on the island, then formally ask the city to detain that prisoner until he or she can be deported.

But the legislation prevents that process for the inmates who meet the criteria.

Crowley released a statement defending her support for the bill.

“The bipartisan bill is in line with Gov. Cuomo’s withdrawal from the Secure Communities program, suspended earlier this summer and is supported by the mayor,” she said. “Advocates on both ends of the political spectrum agree that the Department of Correction’s policy hurts families, hurts communities and impacts law enforcement. At a time when the entire country is discussing smart immigration reform, this bill presents a levelheaded approach to the city’s immigration policies.”

The bill states: “The Council further finds that because cooperation between DOC and ICE is smoothing and expediting the deportation process, such cooperation is eroding trust between immigrants and local law enforcement.”

And that mistrust leads victims of violence, especially victims of domestic violence, without an avenue to turn to, the bill said.

“New York City — home to millions of immigrants — should not be a willing participant in a program that separates thousands of immigrant families each year without a concomitant benefit to public safety.”

In addition, the bill states that the deportation of non-criminal aliens does not fit the stated goals of the federal Criminal Alien Program.

Each year ICE detains about 3,500 people for deportation after they are sent to Rikers.

Many members of the civic stood up last Thursday to denounce illegal immigration.

“They got to go!” shouted Manny Caruana, who recounted the process of his own immigration into the country.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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