Mayor Bloomberg signed two bills on Monday amending the city’s continued noncompliant stance on the federal Secure Communities Program.
In 2008 President Bush enacted the program that sends fingerprints of those booked in jail to the agency of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
If the agency found a suspect entered the country illegally or is a noncitizen with a criminal record, deportation may be sought.
The state, after initial hesitation, agreed to comply in May of last year. New York City, however, opted out from the start.
The bills signed on Monday continue to deny the prints of those who have committed small crimes and minor misdemeanors to ICE.
The new law differs from the original by not allowing ICE to detain residents with pending charges for a minor crime. It also protects illegal immigrants who are charged with prostitution, patronizing a prostitute or those who were convicted of a felony as a minor.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who co-sponsored the bill with many councilmembers including Council speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), said the changes were made for several reasons. First of all, he said, not detaining prostitutes addresses how some of the women may have been brought to the United States involuntarily as part of a sex trade.
“They should not be victimized again,” he said.
As for patronizing a prostitute, he said the Council believes the crime is a misdemeanor that does not rise to the level of a major crime. Lastly, not including individuals who committed a felony as a minor gives them a second chance, Dromm said.
“This is a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s going to help many immigrant families and stop them from being divided.”
Individuals charged with violent misdemeanors or felonies still will have their information handed over to ICE.
Nevertheless, those who oppose the bill says noncompliance with the program creates an unsafe environment.
“It makes the city less safe, especially for our women,” Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D- Astoria, who voted against the amendments, said. “There was a spike in northwestern Queens of groping attacks on women. For whatever reason most of those caught were in the country illegally. The only punishment they would receive was to be deported. Now they are going to be released right into the community.”
Vallone added that even with participation in the Secure Communities Program, only “the worst of the worst” will be deported under Obama’s immigration policy.