The New York City Council on Monday moved a step closer to blocking federal agents from using any city resources to enforce immigration law, opening the door to further confrontation with the Department of Justice over law enforcement grants.
In a unanimous vote, the council’s Committee on Immigration approved a bill that would prevent police from partnering with federal agents to track down illegal immigrants in the city. The measure would also bar use of city property and information obtained by municipal agencies “in furtherance of federal immigration enforcement,” according to draft summary of the bill.
The full council is expected to pass the bill, which would reinforce New York’s already substantial wall of separation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
“The city already cooperates with ICE on its own terms through [current] laws,” said city council member Rafael Espinal, a bill co-sponsor, according to the New York Post. “Any broader or formal arrangement would erode public trust in law enforcement and city agencies. It would also waste local taxpayer dollars.”
If passed, Espinal’s bill would further circumscribe New York officials’ ability to assist immigration agents. A 2014 law prevents local law enforcement from accepting all immigration detention requests except in cases where the criminal alien has a felony conviction within the previous five years, and only then if federal agents have a judicial arrest warrant. The bill as currently written places additional restrictions, such as denying immigration agents access to jails to interview criminal aliens.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has frequently warned New York that its sanctuary city policies could put it at risk of losing critical law enforcement grants from the federal government. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice named New York as one of five major U.S. jurisdictions in potential violation of 8 USC 1373, a federal statute that bars local jurisdictions from limiting communication with the federal authorities about a person’s immigration status.
Sessions gave New York officials until Oct. 27 to provide “additional evidence” that their laws and policies do not run afoul of the statute. In its response, New York said DOJ was misinterpreting both federal law and city policy, while attempting to “impose new [grant] certification requirements that have no basis in law,” reports NBC News.
The city council’s immigration bill, which blocks the use of “information obtained on behalf of the city” in immigration enforcement, would likely move New York away from DOJ’s directive on section 1373.
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