The Department of Correction is currently part of the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), which identifies incarcerated, non-citizen convicted criminals and allows ICE to collect them when their sentences are served so they are not released back into the general public, according to the City Council communications office.
However, CAP sometimes leads to the removal of non-citizens who are not convicted criminals, according to the communications office. The bill, supported by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman Daniel Dromm, other legislators and civil rights advocates, will create a category of people who are protected from CAP because, although they are incarcerated in jails such as Riker's Island, they have not been convicted of a crime.
“What they are doing at Riker's is running an alien program rather than a criminal alien program,” said Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights and surrounding areas in Queens, is chair of the Council's Committee on Immigrant Affairs and co-sponsors the bill, in a statement. “Many innocent immigrants are unfairly being detained and deported beause of this broken immigrant system.”
According to the Department of Corection, 13,295 immigrants were admitted into incarceration facilities in 2010. ICE placed detainers on 3,155 of them and took custody of 2,552 for potential deportations. However, 49.5 of those inmates had not been convicted of a crime.
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents upper Manhattan and parts of the Bronx, drafted the legislation because, she said in a statement, the CAP program puts stress on immigrant communities by causing them to be afraid to turn to law enforcement for help, out of fear of being deported.
“This piece of legislation ensures that law enforcement officials can continue to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Mark-Viverito said, “without threatening their relationships with immigrant communities or needlessly separating immigrant families.”