New York State Suspends Participation in the Federal Secure Communities Program; Queens Criminal Defense Attorney Weighs In

Share Article

Although New York initially agreed to participate in the Secure Communities program, the state’s governor has temporarily suspended the program upon reports that the program has been implemented unsuccessfully and negatively impacts immigrants in New York. Rochelle S. Berliner, a criminal defense lawyer in Queens, discusses the program’s effects on New York immigrants.

Even if they have not actually committed a criminal offense, immigrants are reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officials for any reason because they fear they will be arrested and deported, states Queens lawyer Rochelle S. Berliner.

New York’s Gov. Cuomo recently decided to temporarily pull out of a federal immigration program, known as Secure Communities, due to the inconsistencies within the program and the potential consequences already in place for New York immigrants accused of crimes.

Secure Communities encourages local law enforcement officials to forward fingerprints of alleged criminal offenders in New York to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The federal program has possibly led to unnecessary deportations and has caused immigrants to be even more fearful of the police.

The program was designed to improve public safety by identifying serious criminal non-citizens and deporting or removing them from the United States. However, as reported by Sumathi Reddy in The Wall Street Journal on June 2, 2011, opponents of the federal program claim many of the immigrants deported have not been convicted of a crime or charged with a serious crime.

Some crimes in New York may also go unreported as more non-citizens have become fearful of communicating with law enforcement officers due to the possible consequences.

“New York’s participation in the program has caused a separation between law enforcement and immigrants. Even if they have not actually committed a criminal offense, immigrants are reluctant to communicate with law enforcement officials for any reason because they fear they will be arrested and deported,” states Rochelle S. Berliner, a New York arrests lawyer.

Participation in Secure Communities may be unnecessary in New York, as a criminal conviction in the state already affects immigration status and the ability to become a naturalized citizen.

According to Berliner, “A New York non-citizen criminal conviction for even the least serious criminal offense could result in deportation or removal from the country, loss of a green card or temporary work visa, ICE detention, or loss of the ability to become a lawful permanent resident.”

Although New York has temporarily suspended its participation in the program, many counties in the state are possibly facing an inability to terminate their contracts with the Department of Homeland Security.

A spokeswoman for ICE, Gillian Christensen, has recently stated that even if a state has suspended the program, counties and local governments that have activated the program are unable to opt out of the program, and criminal non-citizen fingerprints could still be collected.

However, according to an article by Mallie Jane Kim in the U.S. News and World Report on June 27, 2011, ambiguity as to whether local governments could withdraw from the program has been an issue for many states. When New York agreed to participate in the program, officials claim they were told participation was voluntary and local governments and counties would be able to withdraw from the program if desired.

Although state participation in the program has been optional so far, the Department of Homeland Security has said the program will be mandatory for every state by 2013.

Rochelle S. Berliner of the Law Office of Rochelle S. Berliner is a Queens criminal defense attorney and represents those accused of criminal charges throughout the boroughs of New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Rochelle S. Berliner
Visit website