On April 24, 2017, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s (DA) Office announced a policy tailored to avoid, when possible, the deportation or detention of non-citizens charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent crimes. Under the new policy, prosecutors in Brooklyn are advised to make plea offers and sentencing recommendations in order to protect undocumented immigrants from being deported for petty crimes.
According to the Brooklyn DA’s office, the policy intends to minimize the “collateral immigration consequences of criminal convictions, such as detainment or deportation.” Assistant district attorneys will be advised to offer a sentence that will not put public safety at risk or lead to deportation which could have “disproportionate” consequences like the separation of families and the destabilization of communities and businesses. The office hired two immigration attorneys who will advise the staff and consult the assistant district attorneys on individual cases.
The policy seeks to mitigate the negative effects of criminal prosecutions by ordering prosecutors to secure guilty pleas without invoking federal laws that could lead to detention or removal from the country, or would make it difficult for those prosecuted to attain full citizenship. Due to the fact that immigration matters follow their own legal guidelines, non-citizens can face harsher punishments for low-level crimes like theft and possession of a small amount of drugs. According to The New York Times, although both these crimes are considered misdemeanors under New York State law, they can be cause for deportation under federal immigration law. Even if the immigrant has legal status in the U.S., the charges could lead to issues in attaining full citizenship. Additionally, the Brooklyn DA has been very reasonable in other cases, such as non-citizens seeking to do Post-conviction relief (PCR). In many of these cases, the non-citizens were not advised about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty or their lawyers gave them no or wrong immigration advice.
This policy comes just days after the U.S. Justice Department announced that they would cut federal resources to police departments in sanctuary cities, like New York City, which have had limited cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In a press release issued April 21, the Department of Justice stated that the New York City’s gang murder rate is “the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.” However, according to The New York Times, the New York City Police Department and the city’s district attorney’s office have brought violent crime to its lowest levels in decades, in part by the anti-gang measures they’ve implemented.
If you are a non-citizen and are seeking legal advice on your immigration matter, it is important to secure quality legal representation. The New York immigration attorneys of Bretz & Coven, LLP have a long history of being passionate, knowledgeable, and honest in our work in providing non-citizens in New York City with legal services they can rely on. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our Manhattan, New York immigration law office at (212) 267-2555.