Opponents and supporters of a program that federal officials say helps track down undocumented criminals and improve public safety rallied Thursday in Midtown. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Dozens braved a cold morning on Third Avenue in Midtown Thursday as they called on Governor David Paterson to pull out of a program that federal officials say helps crack down on undocumented criminals.
"How could New York State participate in this fingerprint sharing program where it will funnel thousands of immigrants into a system that has been recognized as being dysfunctional and unjust," said Angela Fernandez Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
In May, the state made an agreement with federal immigration and customs enforcement or ICE to implement the Secure Communities Program. It requires local police to forward fingerprints of anyone arrested to federal immigration databases. Opponents say this allows ICE to transfer those just suspected of being deportable directly into the detention and deportation system, separating them from their families and communities.
"We feel like Secure Communities is a program that will undermine community trust by forcing communities to be afraid of approaching the police and that encourages racial profiling and at the same time is costly and subjects the state to a lot of liability," said Michelle Fei of the Immigrant Defense Project.
Not everyone at the rally opposed Secure Communities, as there was a handful of people who were behind it. A member of a group called New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement was arrested when things got heated during the rally.
"New York ICE is all for Secure Communities. Thank you governor for trying to implement secure communities, legal New Yorkers stand behind you," said Joanna Marzullo of New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement.
A spokesperson for the governor released a statement saying, "Given the historic destination of New York State as a target for extremists, the Secure Communities Program can be a valuable tool to help protect all New Yorkers. However, the Governor is advised that this program could unfairly target certain communities, and this is cause for great concern."
The statement went on to say the Paterson Administration is in ongoing discussions with ICE about amending the Secured Communities agreement significantly.