New York City Passes Groundbreaking Detainer Reform Laws


On Oct. 22, 2014, the New York City Council passed groundbreaking legislation dramatically expanding existing city laws that limit the circumstances under which the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) (Int 0487-2014) and Department of Correction (“DOC”) (Int 0486-2014) will honor an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detainer. The bills were signed into law on Friday, November 14th and will take effect thirty (30) days later, on or about Dec. 14, 2014. These new laws will greatly benefit future noncitizen criminal defendants and could also potentially prevent noncitizens currently detained in DOC custody from being transferred to immigration detention. Once in force, the new laws will mean that very few, if any, individuals will be transferred from NYPD and DOC to immigration detention. Thousands of New Yorkers each year will be spared from deportation.

Under the new detainer discretion laws, the NYPD and DOC may no longer honor detainer requests issued by ICE unless two criteria are satisfied. ICE must present the City with a warrant from an Article III federal judge (or a federal magistrate judge) that establishes that there is probable cause that the individual sought is subject to arrest by ICE. Additionally, even if ICE possesses a judicial warrant, the NYPD and DOC will only honor a detainer if the person has been convicted within the last five years of a violent or serious crime or is found to be a possible match on the terrorist watch list.

The laws include several additional measures to protect immigrant New Yorkers. ICE is no longer allowed to keep an office on Rikers Island. Additionally, DOC cannot expend resources assisting in civil immigration enforcement, including sharing information about clients with ICE, except as required by federal law or under other limited circumstances. NYPD has no limits on information sharing; therefore there is still a risk that ICE will appear at the court or at people’s homes. Lastly, the NYC Department of Probation announced that it will issue a policy consistent with this legislation in the near future.

For more information, the Immigrant Defense Project and Cardozo School of Law have created a detailed chart and practice advisory here.

Courtesy of the New York State Defenders Association.

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