New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Immigration Commissioner had to go into damage control mode after local officials took issue with the city's expanded approach to cooperating with federal immigration officials.
De Blasio recently increased the list of crimes that would warrant deportation, upping the number from 170 to 177. The added offenses included those related to sex crimes such as underage prostitution and trafficking. Those convicted of these crimes would be subject to removal from the United States upon being turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"They fit exactly the type of offenses that are in the original 170,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Daily News. “It’s absolutely right to include them. I don’t have any concern about that."
In 2018, however, de Blasio called for abolishing ICE altogether.
City Council members, who include 49 Democrats and two Republicans, were not pleased with the mayor's new decision given the city's sanctuary status. They expressed their frustration at a Monday oversight meeting. Immigration Commissioner Bitta Mostofi assured them that the new action would not have much, if any, practical impact.
"We anticipate that this could equate to either zero or very nominal increase of cooperation," Mostofi told them, claiming that it was merely a "bureaucratic, procedural" move.
Democratic Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who is chair of the council's Committee on Immigration, accused de Blasio of playing politics, claiming the decision was inspired by the mayor's possible White House aspirations.
De Blasio disputed this, saying the move was in response to changes in state law.
"It has nothing to do with anything political, it has to do with the fact these new laws were passed," he said, according to Gothamist. De Blasio also reiterated his distaste for ICE, calling it a "broken" institution. The mayor has yet to announce whether he will run for president, but he is expected to make his decision known later this month.
Another committee member, Democratic Councilman Francisco Moya, called the move "baffling" in a statement sent to Fox news, given that de Blasio is "the same mayor who introduced IDNYC, ostensibly to protect immigrants, and called for abolishing ICE just one year ago."
Before the change to the list of deportable offenses takes effect, there must be a public hearing that is part of an approval process. Mostofi said that even if it is approved, it would not become a reality until January 2020 at the earliest.