Advocates are worried that President Donald Trump's get-tough policy toward immigration enforcement could make some subway farebeaters and other low-level offenders in the city more susceptible to deportation. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Legal aid lawyers and immigration advocates are angry at the de Blasio administration, saying it is understating the risk posed to undocumented immigrants by the enforcement of low-level crimes, especialy subway farebeating.
They say Mayor de Blasio's boast that New York is a sanctuary city is misleading.
"It sends a message to immigrants that they are actually OK. And the reality is they are not," said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge at the Legal Aid Society.
Under President Barack Obama, ICE, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, made undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes a priority for deportation. But under President Donald Trump, those charged with even minor offenses are now a priority, too.
Last week, the NYPD's top lawyer, Lawrence Byrne, tried to ease fears in the immigrant community.
"There's been a lot of talk about people getting deported for jumping turnstiles. No one's getting deported for jumping turnstiles," Byrne said.
Some farebeaters are given summonses and sent home. But legal aid says others are treated as criminals and fingerprinted, and that's when the deportation danger now rises.
"The prints are uploaded into two databases, a federal database for FBI purposes and ICE purposes," Luongo said. "So you are on ICE's radar."
On Wednesday, Byrne acknowledged that repeat offenders might be at risk.
"The fourth or the tenth time you jump a turnstile, whether you a legal immigrant, an illegal immigrant or a U.S. citizen, you are getting arrested for the misdemeanor of theft of services, you are getting fingerprinted and ICE becomes aware that you are in our custody," he said.
The NYPD began easing up on enforcement of low-level offenses last year. Advocates say that in light of the new federal immigration policy, the NYPD should back off even more.
"It is really about having a conversation with the NYPD to say, how about we stop arresting these people for these things that are actually not at all jeopardizing our public safety?" Luongo said.
The city says that's not happening.
"We believe in quality-of-life policing. We believe it is one of the reasons why this city has gotten safer for a quarter century," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"We have to continue to do that enforcement, whether somebody is a citizen, whether somebody is resident alien, undocumented in order to keep all people in this city safe," said Police Commissioner James O'Neill.