Sen. Gounardes in the Albany Times-Union: "Forcing immigrants to live in the shadows makes our communities less safe"

Originally published in Albany Times-Union on .
Demonstrators march through Empire State Plaza Concourse in support of the New York for All Act.

Commentary: New York for All Act would bar local police from cooperating with ICE

Forcing immigrants to live in the shadows makes our communities less safe.

By Andrew Gounardes and Karines Reyes

New Yorkers across the political spectrum agree that our nation’s immigration system is broken. The current path to citizenship can take decades to navigate, leaving many families in a state of constant fear of detention and deportation, even when they’ve done nothing wrong. In New York, 835,000 undocumented immigrants are trapped in a system that makes it nearly impossible to attain lawful status, regardless of whether they have lived here since they were children, paid taxes or have kids who are American citizens. 

When local law enforcement colludes with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it makes immigrant communities fearful of any police interaction: Non-citizen New Yorkers can be torn from their families and detained for something as simple as a traffic violation or for calling 911 in an emergency. 

The stakes are high: Former President Donald Trump has announced extremist proposals to expand his first-term immigration crackdown if he returns to power, including a plan to carry out sweeping raids and deputize local police to detain undocumented people on a mass scale and detain them in sprawling camps before they are expelled.

Forcing people into the shadows is not only morally wrong, it’s contrary to New York’s economic and security interests. New York has an opportunity to protect immigrant communities, strengthen due-process protections and ensure true public safety for all. Our New York for All Act would prohibit state and local officers from working and sharing sensitive information with ICE.

If people no longer fear interacting with a government agency, they will call for help when they need it, such as in a police, fire or medical emergency, keeping us all safer. In fact, across the U.S., counties that block ICE cooperation have lower crime rates than those that do not. The bill also creates a better, fairer justice system by ensuring that those accused of crimes are detained via a judicial warrant, which requires probable cause, rather than an ICE detainer request, which does not – and often results in imprisonment without due process.

The role of local law enforcement is to protect New Yorkers and uphold local laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that immigration enforcement is the sole duty of the federal government. Local enforcement of federal policy wastes scarce resources and distracts police from investigating real crimes and responding to emergencies. 

All New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status or how long they have been here, want to lead open lives, provide for their family, and access health care without intimidation. The New York for All Act offers the basic civil protections that help make this possible. New Jersey, Washington, and California have implemented similar policies that have proven successful at both ensuring public safety and keeping families whole.

State leaders must stand up for our immigrant neighbors. We need a more humane, functional immigration system, but until we have one, the New York for All Act helps ensure a safer future — for everyone.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes of Brooklyn represents the 26th Senate District. Assemblymember Karines Reyes of the Bronx represents the 87th Assembly District.

Read the op-ed at the Albany Times-Union website.