The Department of Homeland Security will begin sending fingerprints of illegal immigrants arrested for crimes in New York City to immigration officials next week, despite concerns from numerous advocates and public officials. NY1's Courtney Gross filed this report.
Next week, if you're an illegal immigrant and you're arrested, your fingerprints will make their way to immigration officials, even for low-level offenses.
You don't have to be convicted. And it could lead to deportation.
"It's appalling," said Karen Kaminsky, the deputy director of the New York State Immigration Coalition. "There has been such widespread concern about the program, not just from immigrants' rights advocates, from domestic violence advocates, from law enforcement [and] from Governor Cuomo."
The controversial program, designed by the Department of Homeland Security, is raising serious concerns among New York's elected officials.
"In the United States, when you're arrested you are potentially charged with a crime," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "And in the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty whether you are a citizen of this country or not."
"We are the gateway of immigration," said Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. "Shame on those individuals who want to vilify those individuals and vilify that spirit that helped build this country."
Federal officials say the program is about homeland security and their highest priority is to deport individuals who threaten public safety.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says he will comply with the federal mandate.
"I think there is merit on both sides, but obviously it's going forward and we're compliant to the extent that we have to," he said.
The program has already started in half of the state and has led to 475 deportations.
Police already share fingerprint data with the FBI to deter terrorism. It's the FBI that will now hand it over to immigration officials.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said last year he would suspend the state's participation in the program. Now, according to federal authorities, New York State doesn't have a choice.
The governor's office says it is still concerned with the program and will monitor its implementation.