NYPD Alerts ICE to Illegal Immigrants' Court Dates Despite New York Being a 'Sanctuary City'

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April 3, 2017

The New York Police Department reportedly notifies federal immigration officials when illegal immigrants are due in criminal court to face deportation, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's promise for New York to remain a sanctuary city.

The NYPD's process of verifying warrants against a defendant involves contacting relevant law enforcement, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so the agency is alerted to an illegal immigrant's upcoming appearance in a city courtroom, the New York Daily News reported Sunday night.

Immigration advocates have accused the NYPD of "colluding" with federal agents and going against de Blasio's vow that New York will remain a sanctuary city during Donald Trump's presidency.

As a sanctuary city, New York City does not fully cooperate with federal authorities to hand over undocumented immigrants in its jurisdiction. Since 2014, the city only complies with ICE orders to detain undocumented individuals until federal agents can take custody if the individual committed a violent or serious crime.

For low-level crimes–which de Blasio has said includes "small amounts of marijuana possession" and drunk driving–the city will ignore ICE "detainers."

In some cases after the NYPD notifies relevant agencies of an immigrant's upcoming court appearance, ICE officials meet the undocumented individual at court to detain them for deportation.

David Gonzalez, 51, for example, was previously deported as a felon but later reentered the United States. He was later caught by the NYPD for allegedly rubbing up against a woman on the subway.

The city did not comply with ICE orders to detain Gonzalez, but an NYPD administrative aide said in the Central Booking system last month that he had "notified ICE" of his arrest, according to the Daily News. ICE officials appeared at court to take Gonzalez into custody after a judge released him. He was awaiting deportation last week.

Although the NYPD is not following ICE detention orders, per city law, the department's actions have left immigration activists outraged.

Lori Zeno, co-founder and deputy director of Queens Law Associates, said the NYPD's actions are outrageous.

"I think it really is outrageous," Zeno said. "We're supposed to be a sanctuary city. What does it mean if our own court system is participating in turning folks in to ICE?"

Austin Finan, a spokesman for de Blasio, did not dispute that the NYPD communicates regularly with federal immigration officials.

"NYPD notifies and confirms with all inquiring and arresting agencies the status of an arrestee who may be the subject of a warrant," Finan told the Daily News. He added that the communication does not mean the city is following ICE detainment orders.

De Blasio signed a law in 2014 that limited the city's coordination with ICE officials. The mayor declared that the city would not cooperate with ICE unless cases involved individuals who have been convicted of "violent or serious felonies."

But Zeno said the mayor could do more to protect undocumented individuals from ICE.

"The mayor can issue a command to the Police Department that they shouldn’t be calling ICE," Zeno said. "Cooperating with ICE is one thing ... But to me they seem to be in collusion with ICE."

The NYPD's top spokesman, Stephen Davis, said the Gonzalez case and others like it have been handled properly.

"Nothing was compromised in terms of the policies of the department. These guys didn't suffer any consequence," said Davis, who noted that ICE has access to arrest information on its own.