Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has suspended New York’s participation in a federal immigration enforcement program that seeks to deport Caribbean and other immigrants.
“There are concerns about the implementation of the program, as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” he said in a statement, adding that New York will not take part in the program, unless those concerns are lifted. .
The Secure Communities program has been strongly condemned by a wide range of immigrant advocacy groups, civil liberties attorneys and elected officials.
They attributed a dramatic increase in deportations to the Caribbean and other places to the program.
In addition, the groups and officials said that though the program was aimed at capturing convicted criminals and others deemed as security threats, too many immigrants charged with low-level crimes or guilty only of being in the U.S. illegally have been caught in the web.
Consequently, immigration advocates said Caribbean and other immigrants have been driven deeper into the underground and further scared in aiding law enforcement officials with battling crime.
Under the program, started by the George W. Bush administration in 2008, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local or county jail are dispatched to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in its files.
If an individual is in the U.S. illegally, or is a noncitizen with a criminal record, officials seek to deport the individual.
New York law enforcement agencies say they regularly check fingerprints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Homeland Security officials said the FBI will still share fingerprints with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whether or not New York participates in the Secure Communities initiative.
Grenadian American New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who represents the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, has lauded Cuomo’s decision.
“Secure Communities has done nothing to make our communities more secure. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for taking an important first step through this suspension in ridding us of this ineffective and unjust program,” he told Caribbean Life.
“I am confident that through his review, he will learn what me and my district, which is over 80 percent immigrant families, already know: Secure Communities tears at the crucial relationship between the police and our communities and wastes law enforcement officers’ time and money,” he added.
“Once this program is firmly in our rear window, we can focus on real solutions to immigration reform that are effective and respectful of human decency,” Williams continued.