Protection for immigrants
NEW YORK – As he demits office today, New York Governor David Paterson says he has reached an agreement with United States federal officials to help protect illegal Caribbean and others without criminal records.
Paterson, the grandson of Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants, says the agreement seeks to appease critics of a new government programme to strengthen immigration enforcement.
He said the agreement ensures that immigrants who pose the greatest threat to public safety are “a priority” for the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“While I am very concerned with protecting the civil rights of immigrants, I am equally cognisant of the fact that this state is a prime target for terrorism. This new agreement balances the homeland security and civil liberties issues that have surrounded the Secure Communities initiative.
“I continue to believe it is appropriate and important for New York State to share information with the federal government that could protect us from terrorist attacks,” the Governor said.
Under the enforcement programme, called Secure Communities, fingerprints collected by local police departments are automatically shared with federal immigration officials.
Paterson said the “cornerstone” of Secure Communities is the activation of new information-sharing capabilities to automatically alert local law enforcement and ICE when potentially deportable criminal immigrants come into local custody.
Advocates for the immigrant community had expressed concern that, under the original agreement, Caribbean and other immigrants charged with minor offenses could face deportation.
They had also expressed concern that such a sweeping initiative would discourage immigrants from cooperating with police.
With the new agreement, Paterson said “it is clear that convicted felons, and not individuals whose only offense is remaining in the country illegally, are the target of Secure Communities.
“The agreement also makes clear that aliens with misdemeanor convictions and pose no discrete threat to national security are not the focus of Secure Communities,” he said.
Rather, Paterson said their purpose is to “identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been previously deported and who illegally (re) entered the country, or who are subject to removal because they pose a homeland security concern or threat to the public safety.”
The negotiated agreement comes as the Governor earlier this week pardoned 24 immigrants, including Caribbean nationals, who were subjected to deportation because of prior criminal convictions. (CMC)