Most of the stories I cover involving my home stomping grounds of New York are uniformly negative, I’m sorry to say. (And yes, that includes the New York Jets.) But the state is what it is. What’s a guy to do? This fact makes it all the more pleasant for me, though, when I come across something positive to report, and it seemed as if I’d found just such a story this weekend. Next week the Empire State will finish rolling out a program called Secure Communities.
A program that gives federal immigration officials access to the fingerprints of undocumented immigrants booked into local jails will start Tuesday across New York state despite staunch opposition from advocates and lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A law-enforcement official familiar with the program, called Secure Communities, confirmed that New York City and 30 other jurisdictions would join the 31 communities that already have the program in place. Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties, among others, have participated in Secure Communities for more than a year.
Right off the bat, this one should ring up significant support – or so you might think – because it’s actually nothing new. We’re not talking about some program where cops are cruising the parking lot at Home Depot asking people for “their papers” every morning. This is simply taking the fingerprints of illegal immigrants who are already in jail and charged with a crime and getting them into the right database. The prints were already being sent to the FBI, so shipping them over to ICE shouldn’t be much of a leap.
A representative of the immigration enforcement agency is quoted as saying that the program has already delivered results, and “has helped ICE remove more than 135,000 convicted criminal aliens, including more than 49,000 convicted of major violent offenses like murder, rape and the sexual abuse of children.” So what could possibly go wrong?
Asked about the program at a Friday news conference, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said “we prefer that they not do that here.”
Speaking on the radio Friday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said there will be a rally on City Hall’s steps on Monday to urge the federal government to refrain from forcing the city’s hand.
She also said the police were being put in a “terrible position.”
“It’s just so counter to what New York is about as an immigrant city,” she added. “And I’m real proud of our mayor and our governor, who have all spoken out…. The police can’t disregard the law at the end of the day, but it’s a terrible thing to put them in when they should be focusing on real crime.”
New York – particularly the Big Apple – does have a great tradition of welcoming immigrants. Legal immigrants. They built the city and the harbor and made New York a focal point of the economic development of an emerging nation. Unfortunately, its vast size and compressed population also eventually made it a haven for gang activity and illegal trade, including illegal immigration. Contrary to what Ms. Quinn may feel, a program such as Secure Communities is not contrary to “what New York is about.” It’s precisely what New York was and should always have been about. A safe haven and open door for those who follow the legal process we have in place and wish to join America as citizens.
But now we have everyone from the Governor and the Chief of Police carping about it along with every advocacy group in the state. So I suppose there’s no such thing as a good story in New York without at least one worm in the apple.