One mayor's harmless undocumented immigrant is the feds’ menace to society.
Mayor de Blasio lashed out Tuesday at Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials after their agents scooped up a 19-year-old Salvadoran immigrant in Queens.
The inter-agency clash over Estivan Velasquez comes at a time of escalating tension between de Blasio and the feds, as President Trump seeks to strengthen immigration laws and beef up enforcement.
ICE officials issued a detainer order to the city Department of Correction in May, telling them to place a federal hold on Velasquez. But the city released Velasquez from Rikers Island on Thursday after he served nearly five months for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Later that day, ICE agents busted Velasquez, whom they described as a gang member and a potential threat to public safety. Velasquez was in the midst of being deported late Tuesday.
De Blasio cried foul.
“The detainee was released after he pled guilty and served his time for an offense that does not qualify as a violent or serious felony under the city’s local laws,” said Rosemary Boeglin, a mayoral spokeswoman.
“And his gang affiliation was not supported by evidence that meets even minimal constitutional standards. When ICE presents evidence to our city that an individual in our custody has been convicted of a violent or serious offense — one that threatens the public’s safety — we will fully cooperate,” Boeglin added. “Short of that, this administration and our Police Department do not believe we make our city safer by needlessly tearing apart families and communities.”
ICE officials said Velasquez admitted to agents he was a member of the MS-13 gang. He was one of at least 41 people the agency detained around the city in the last month.
Velasquez entered the U.S. illegally, ICE officials said. And in November 2015, a judge ordered he be deported. His criminal history in the U.S. includes reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and disorderly conduct, ICE officials said.
ICE did not provide details about Velasquez’s disorderly conduct arrest or whether the other cases resulted in convictions.
“It’s the politics of fear,” said Camille Mackler, director of legal initiatives for the New York Immigration Coalition, said. “They’re actually inflicting more harm than doing any kind of good.”
But ICE countered Velasquez should have never been “released back into the community.”
“Honoring a detainer request is not about politics, it is about keeping New York citizens safe,” said Thomas Decker, ICE’s top deportation official in New York.
For most crimes, city jail bosses refuse to hand over people who have been arrested when requested by the feds for deportation proceedings. But there are 170 serious crimes that trigger the city’s cooperation.
Last year, ICE sent the NYPD 72 detainer requests. The NYPD ignored 70 of them because only two met the department’s criteria, a police source told the Daily News. Figures regarding the Department of Correction’s response to such requests were not immediately available.
In November 2014, de Blasio vowed to “end cooperation with federal ‘detainer requests’ for all residents,” except those convicted of serious crimes.
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