Sanctuary borough: DA aims to protect immigrants from deportation

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The District Attorney’s office is launching a new policy aimed at helping immigrants convicted of low-level offenses avoid deportation.

The policy seeks to protect the borough’s vulnerable foreign-born residents by trying to sidestep out-of-proportion immigration consequences for those charged with certain misdemeanors or nonviolent crimes, said the acting district attorney.

“Now, more than ever, we must ensure that a conviction, especially for a minor offense, does not lead to draconian consequences like deportation, which can be unfair, tear families apart, and destabilize communities and businesses,” said Eric Gonzalez.

The policy aims to scale back the effects of criminal prosecution for immigrants by calling on hundreds of Brooklyn prosecutors to try to secure guilty pleas without using federal laws that could detain or deport the undocumented, or spell trouble for those looking to become citizens. Under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice has prioritized the deportation of both undocumented and legal immigrants convicted of even low-level crimes.

Under Gonzalez’s new policy, borough prosecutors will be obligated to alert clients to potential immigration consequences of their cases and — as long as it doesn’t compromise public safety — work to achieve what the district attorney’s office calls an “immigration-neutral disposition.”

But some immigrant advocates feel the policy doesn’t go far enough.

“Increased sensitivity to immigration consequences is a positive step” said Ward Oliver, a head attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s immigration law unit, “but we hope that their vision expands beyond low-level offenses to all situations where arbitrary decisions in prosecution and punishment — one day less in a jail sentence or a different felony charge — can make the difference in whether an immigrant has the possibility of remaining in the United States.”

And some argue to policy is wrong-headed from he outset. Ridge Assembly member — and Republican mayoral candidate — Nicole Malliotakis slammed the policy as creating an unfair loophole that allows immigrants to avoid punishment for their crimes.

“This unfairly creates two justice systems: one for citizens, and one for illegal immigrants,” said Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge), who officially filed paperwork this week to run for mayor. “It is outrageous that a district attorney, whose job is to enforce the laws of our city and state and ensure that victims receive justice, would create a situation that allows an individual to plea down to a lesser crime simply because he or she is undocument­ed.”

Gonzales stressed that the new policy won’t endanger the public, but rather create a more equitable approach for prosecuting immigrants.

“Our goal is to enhance public safety and fairness in the criminal justice system and this policy complements, but does not compromise, this goal,” said Gonzales. “We will not stop prosecuting crimes, but we are determined to see that case outcomes are fair and just for everyone.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Michael from Brooklyn says:
Sorry, but it is unfair and a circumvention of the legal process. Will it also be used to pressure guilty pleas out of those who are not guilty? (plea guilty now, or risk going to court and being deported)
All defendants should be treated equally by the DA's office. If he has a problem with Federal immigration law, he can challenge it through the available channels. His job as public servant is to respect the law and see that it is enforced in the courts. He is not a law-maker, and he should not use his position to undermine the authority of the Attorney General.
Whether or not he agrees with the penalties for crimes, he is duty-bound to lead his office to pursue them. If he is unable to do so, he must step down from this job.
April 27, 2017, 9:24 am
Nicole from Park Slope says:
These immigrants are important for our country! They commit the crimes that regular Americans are either unwilling or unable to do. They also commit new and interesting crimes they know from their home countries, expanding our culture to include these otherwise unknown crimes.
I think we could do even more than he's suggesting. Why limit ourselves to criminals who are already here - why not import more criminals directly from other countries?
April 27, 2017, 10:22 am
mike from coney island says:
Nicole goes a little too far. A small number of illegal imigrants are criminals. The vast majority come to just work. But for those who commit even minor offences they should pay the consequences. Why this protection? Traspassing private property is a crime, why is trasspassing a country not?? If someone traspasses and breaks into your house does that make them an undocumented tenant?? and automatically gives them all the rights of a tenant? Deport who ever is a criminal period. Liberals always want to gain political points by appearing considerate and nice..but whats nice isnt always right and whats right isnt always nice. Just have to do whats right.
April 27, 2017, 11:11 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
So nice to pick and choose the laws you want to enforce.

No one wants to deport immigrants. Deporting illegal aliens is what the administration wants to do - but obfuscating the language lets you get indignant over the lies you've told yourself.

Now, what country would you like to go frolic in?
April 27, 2017, 1:06 pm
HONEY Pooter from Williamsburg says:
So if a mexican rapes me, this guy wants to make sure that he doesn't get punished???
April 28, 2017, 4:31 am
June from Fort Greene says:
The first few months of this year food delivery bicycle guys were actually stopping at red lights on crowded thoroughfares letting pedestrians cross with the right of way.
April 28, 2017, 6:38 pm

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