The New York City Council may soon explicitly prohibit the city from engaging in any contractual relationships with “entities engaged in immigration enforcement,” according to the language of a new bill set to be introduced on Wednesday by Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration.
Currently, both the New York Police Department and the Hudson River Park Trust — which the city manages in conjunction with the state — have active contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to data compiled by the investigative news site Sludge. The NYPD’s $112,000 contract with the agency is for the use of a firing range located at NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza and would expire in February 2020. The Hudson River Park Trust’s $426,000 contract covers secure parking for the ICE New York field office and runs until June 2019.
The half-million dollars in contracts could be in jeopardy if the bill, Int. No. 1092, were to pass. A search of contracting records surfaced no active contracts between city entities and Customs and Border Protection, the other federal agency that primarily engages in immigration enforcement.
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The NYPD and the Hudson River Park Trust did not respond to requests for comment about their understanding of the bill’s potential impact or whether they opposed it.
Though the language of the bill — “entities,” not “federal agencies” — could be read as applying not only to federal law enforcement but other organizations that support their immigration enforcement functions, a spokesman for Menchaca, Tony Chiarito, wrote that the rule would only involve “the City’s relationship with immigration enforcement entities – not private entities that do business with immigration enforcement entities.”
In a statement, Menchaca said that the legislation would take New York’s status as a ‘sanctuary’ jurisdiction “a step further by prohibiting the city from providing goods or services for a fee or an in kind payment from entities engaged in federal immigration enforcement… We get to decide how we cooperate with federal enforcement efforts, and we don’t want to provide assistance to immigration enforcement entities in this way.”
Given the low volume of actual contracts between New York City and immigration enforcement agencies, the move largely functions as a symbolic strike at federal immigration authorities, another measure that, if passed, would signal the city’s aversion to cooperating with ICE or CBP in any way.
The city’s police department and municipal agencies do not cooperate with ICE, except in limited circumstances involving people convicted of one of 170 “serious” crimes and for whom a judicial warrant has been issued. After NYPD officers were thought to have collaborated too closely with federal personnel during the January detention of immigrant rights advocate and New Sanctuary Coalition Executive Director Ravi Ragbir, heavy criticism from activists and council members led to the city issuing stricter guidelines for cooperation.
Not everyone on the Committee on Immigration agrees with the bill as it stands. In a statement provided to Documented, Queens Council member Bob Holden said that, upon first impression, he had concerns about the vagueness of the language. “I’d like to see a debate on the impacts of this bill and would like further clarification of what the word entities means before I could make any decision on how I would vote in committee,” he wrote.
The bill is on the agenda for the City Council on Wednesday and will be discussed in the Committee on Immigration’s next meeting on September 6.
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