Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced that he will suspend New York’s participation in the federal Secure Communities program that sends finger print data from local police departments to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The program is designed to catch illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes but data has shown that the program has led mostly to the deportation of immigrants who have no criminal record. We reported last week that Cuomo was close to make a decision about withdrawing from the program. Cuomo was under pressure from Latino legislators who have been increasingly concerned that the immigrant community will be scared to contact police, or use emergency services for fear that they will be deported through the program.
“There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program.” It isn’t exactly clear that Cuomo can withdraw from the program. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn withdrew from the program last month but was quickly informed by the Department of Homeland Security that he could not and that soon participation will be mandatory for the entire country. The program was initially sold to states as being voluntary. Emails between Gov. David Paterson and an ICE representative recently revealed that Paterson only signed on to the program only after being told that the program was optional for every locality.
Cuomo’s move has earned him high praise from Hispanic legislators as well as civil rights groups and law enforcement officials.
State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Vice Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Senate, said in a statement, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for having the courage to put an end to this program’s existence in New York. The Secure Communities program has frightened victims and witnesses of crime from coming forward. We need to make our neighborhoods safe places for our families and not take part in a problematic and contradictory program that hinders our safety.”
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, “We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking the bold step of removing New York State from the Secure Communities initiative, which, despite its name, has become a sore subject for those who work day and night to make our neighborhoods safer. We need to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected, and the decision to remove our state from this program is a positive move for all New Yorkers.”
John Poklemba, Counsel to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said in a statement, “Governor Cuomo has made the right decision to take New York State out of the controversial Secure Communities program. This program unfortunately has had a negative impact on our crime-fighting efforts. Law enforcement must have tools and resources that are both effective and fair.”
For more reaction, check here and here.
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By David King on June 1, 2011, 4:05 pm
In category: Albany
, Civil Rights
, Eye on Albany
, Immigrants | 5 Comments »