Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference in which he...

Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference in which he called for rescinding sanctuary city laws blocking New York City from telling federal immigration enforcers when an immigrant has been accused of crime. Credit: NYC Mayor's Office

Mayor Eric Adams wants to rescind sanctuary city laws blocking New York City from telling federal immigration enforcers when an immigrant has been accused of crime.

In his most forceful remarks on the topic to date, Adams indicated Tuesday he opposes particular sanctuary city laws put on the books in 2014 and 2017 during the mayoralty of Bill de Blasio that restrict the city from helping the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with deportation.

“We should be communicating with ICE. And if ICE makes the determination of deporting, then they should,” Adams said at his weekly news conference at City Hall. “So, no one is taking away from anyone’s due process, but the mere fact we cannot share with ICE that this person has committed three robberies, that this person is part of an organized gang crew, the mere fact that we can’t say that and can’t communicate with that, that’s problematic for me.”

New York and other sanctuary cities don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, except under rare circumstances, and typically provide certain social services regardless of whether an immigrant is living illegally in the United States.

Adams spokesman Charles Lutvak said Adams wants sanctuary city policies returned to the Bloomberg era.

Starting in the late 1980s, the policies were focused on protecting law-abiding immigrants, but allowed and even encouraged cooperation with immigration enforcers when an immigrant was suspected of criminality, Lisa Zornberg, Adams’ chief counsel, said at the news conference. 

It’s unclear how successful Adams’ push to change the laws will be, as the City Council opposes a change.

Earlier this month, the council speaker, Adrienne Adams of Southeast Queens, rebuffed calls to rescind the city's sanctuary city laws and said she has “no plans” to do so.

Since spring 2022, nearly 180,000 foreign migrants have passed through the city’s intake system. A tiny minority of the population have been accused of committing crimes, including a shooting in Times Square, a robbery crew on motorbikes and the killing of a sex worker in Manhattan.

“Continuing the fervor and the fearmongering around a supposed crime wave, which just is not true, I think is damaging,” Adrienne Adams said. “Particularly right now.”

It's the latest restrictive move the mayor has made in his handling of the migrant crisis. Initially, his administration welcomed the influx with “open arms” but has since said that the crisis and the impact, absent more help from the federal government, would “destroy New York City.” 

The city has had sanctuary city policies since the Koch administration in the late 1980s, but those protections were greatly expanded under de Blasio.

At the news conference, Zornberg said the 2014 law prohibits the city from honoring administrative ICE detainers for someone suspected, arrested or even convicted of criminality, with certain exceptions, such as serious offenses or being on a terrorist watchlist.

In 2017, the council passed a law prohibiting any city resources from being used in furtherance of civil immigration enforcement.

“There’s a bar, and the operation of those two laws essentially places strong limitations on the city’s ability to cooperate or to provide even just notification to federal authorities,” Zornberg said.

On Long Island, Nassau currently has three ICE agents embedded at the county jail, “and we share intelligence and cooperate on investigations,” said Christopher Boyle, a spokesman for County Executive Bruce Blakeman. In addition, Boyle said, “ICE agents share information regarding criminal investigations with the Nassau County Police Department.”

Michael Martino, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, said the police department “will notify federal immigration officials when an undocumented person is arrested for a criminal offense.”

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