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Kathy Hochul
stated on February 22, 2024 in an interview:
In New York, there are no barriers to law enforcement to work with the federal government on immigration laws, and there are 100 crimes where migrants can be handed over.
true barely-true
In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. U.S. (AP) In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. U.S. (AP)

In this July 8, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif. U.S. (AP)

Jill Terreri Ramos
By Jill Terreri Ramos March 29, 2024

In debate over sanctuary policies, patchwork of laws and edicts limit cooperation in New York

If Your Time is short

  • In New York City, laws prevent police and corrections staff from holding noncitizens for federal immigration authorities except in certain circumstances. 

  • These circumstances include a prior conviction of a violent or serious crime, of which there are approximately 177, or a possible match on the terrorist watchlist. 

  • An appellate court decision prevents law enforcement across the state from detaining people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless they have a judicial warrant. 

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In New York, a debate rages over whether local police should work with federal authorities to deport people who are in the country illegally. Immigrant advocates and Democrats support state and local measures that would further weaken any existing cooperation. Meanwhile, state Republicans are calling for a new law that would require local authorities to notify immigration enforcement when a noncitizen is arrested. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul was asked about Republican elected officials who are concerned that New York’s sanctuary policies prevent local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration authorities. 

"That narrative is false," Hochul said. "There's no barriers to law enforcement, state or local, to work with the federal government when it comes to immigration laws. There are 100 crimes that if migrants or anyone here commits that there's a close connection and a desire from local government to hand them over."

We wondered whether Hochul is correct. Is there really no barrier to state or local law enforcement agencies to work with the federal government when it comes to immigration laws? Are there 100 crimes for which cooperation is permitted? 

City barriers

Sanctuary policies are written differently in every jurisdiction, but they concern the relationship between state and local authorities and federal immigration enforcement. They do not prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using its own resources to detain people and they do not protect unauthorized immigrants from being criminally prosecuted as any other suspect would. 

These policies can create prohibitions on a range of activities, such as sharing information or local resources, communicating with federal authorities about a suspect, holding a suspect who is not a citizen so ICE can take the suspect into custody, or allowing local law enforcement to perform the duties of an ICE agent. In New York, there are certain policies like this at the state level, as well as in some local governments. 

Some of the strongest sanctuary city laws are in New York City. One of the first was an executive order from Mayor Edward Koch in 1989, which limited the information that city employees could give federal immigration authorities. It was a way to encourage people in immigrant communities to cooperate with the police in criminal investigations without fear of deportation. The laws have been strengthened over the years, creating more distance between local criminal prosecution and federal immigration enforcement. 

ICE had operations on Rikers Island, and when noncitizens were sentenced, they would go to ICE for removal, said Kenneth Genalo, ICE’s New York City field office director for enforcement and removal operations. 

In 2014, the city passed a law that led to the removal of ICE’s permanent office on Rikers Island, and it also put limits on how corrections officers and police could talk to and assist ICE, which marked a turning point for ICE. 

"These policies stopped all the collaboration and cooperation," Genalo said. 

Immigration experts said that ICE can apprehend more people in city custody through something called a detainer if the federal agency would obtain a judicial warrant, but it does not do so. ICE presents administrative warrants, signed by an ICE official, not a judge. 

"It’s uncomfortable to be subject to judicial scrutiny," said Peter L. Markowitz, a law professor and co-director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. "That’s why they don’t do it." 

The city’s ICE detainer law, passed in 2014, allows the New York Police Department and the Department of Corrections to hold people who are wanted by ICE for 48 hours past their release date only if certain conditions are met. The requirements for each department have slight differences, but generally, ICE must have a judicial warrant, and the person has to have been convicted of one of approximately 177 violent or serious crimes, or be a possible match on a terrorist watchlist.    

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Hochul’s reference to "100 crimes" very likely refers to the list of crimes in the detainer law that create exceptions for cooperating with ICE. 

The city’s laws and ICE’s lack of judicial warrants result in few detainer requests being fulfilled. In fiscal year 2023, the NYPD received 109 detainer requests but fulfilled none of them. The Department of Corrections received 201 requests, and transferred 10 people to ICE. The Corrections Department, however, can communicate with ICE about people in custody without receiving a judicial warrant in cases in which the person has been convicted of a violent or serious crime or is a possible match in the terrorist watchlist. 

The NYPD and other city agencies can still cooperate with federal law enforcement in certain circumstances, including investigations into gangs, human trafficking and terrorism. 

Genalo told PolitiFact that ICE detainers are typically honored at state prisons. 

Another city law prevents city resources and personnel from being used for immigration enforcement. 

State barriers

At the state level, several policies prevent cooperation: 

  • Hochul has kept in place an executive order that limits when state employees can ask about immigration status or share with federal immigration authorities information tied to immigration enforcement, unless they are required by law. The order also prohibits law enforcement officers from asking someone about their immigration status unless that person is under investigation and unless their alleged criminal activity is related to their immigration status. Police also can’t use equipment or resources just to investigate and arrest people who are here without authorization and are not suspected in any other crimes. Also, ICE can execute a civil arrest in a state facility only if it has a judicial warrant or order, or if the arrest is related to a proceeding in the facility. 

  • An appellate court ruling, known as Francis v. DeMarco, found that state law bars state and local law enforcement from holding people for ICE past their release date without a judicial warrant. 

  • The Protect Our Courts Act, passed in 2020, prevents ICE from showing up at state and local courthouses where it knows noncitizens will be and arresting them there. 

We reached out to Hochul’s office by phone and email and did not receive evidence to support her claim. 

Our ruling

Hochul said that there were "no barriers" in New York to local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration laws and that there are 100 crimes for which noncitizens could be handed over. 

New York City has some of the strongest laws prohibiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, but there are circumstances under which cooperation is possible. If someone is in the country without authorization and has been convicted of one of approximately 177 crimes, they can be turned over to ICE if other conditions are met. 

There are also barriers to cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities across the state. However, if people who are in the country illegally are convicted of crimes and go to prison upstate, they likely will be turned over to ICE, experts told us. 

Because Hochul’s statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts, we rate this Mostly False. 

Our Sources

YouTube, POLITICO Governor’s Summit Fireside Chat, Feb. 22, 2024. 

Email interview, Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice, Cornell Law School, March 7, 2024. 

Email interview, Reed Dunlea, press secretary, New York Immigration Coalition, March 7, 2024. 

Email interview, Daniel L. Stageman, Ph.D., director of research in the Office for the Advancement of Research at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, March 7, 2024. 

Phone interview, Peter L. Markowitz, professor, associate dean of equity in curriculum and teaching, co-director, Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, March 20, 2024. 

Phone interview, Kenneth Genalo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ERO New York City field office director, March 19, 2024. 

Albany Law School Government Law Center Explainer, "‘Sanctuary Policies: What are the Decisions Facing State and Local Governments?" March 19, 2019. 

New York State, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Continuation and Expiration of Prior Executive Orders, Oct. 8. 2021. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Executive Order 170, Sept. 15, 2017, and 170.1, April 25, 2018. 

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Trump’s State of the Union claim on sanctuary cities, criminals," Feb. 5, 2020. 

City and State, "Where are New York’s sanctuary cities?" July 3, 2019. 

Immigrant Defense Project, FAQ, Protect our Courts Act. 

New York City Mayor Edward Koch Executive Order 124, Aug. 7, 1989. 

New York City news release, "De Blasio Administration Announces Citywide Guidance and NYPD Protocol to Codify Restrictions on Assistance with Federal Immigration Enforcement," January 31, 2018. 

New York City code Sect. 9-131, Department of Correction, "Persons not to be detained." 

New York City code, Sect. 14-154, Police Department, "Persons not to be detained." 

Cardozo Law, Immigrant Defense Project, "New York City New Detainer Discretion Law Chart and Practice Advisory," December 2014. 

NYCLU, news release, "Court rules NY law enforcement cannot detain immigrants for ICE," Nov. 14, 2018. 

New York State Senate Bill S425A, Protect our Courts Act, signed Dec. 15, 2020. 

News release, "Senator Brad Hoylman Applauds Signing of ‘Protect Our Courts Act,’ Protecting Immigrants from Warrantless ICE Arrests When Attending Court Proceedings," Dec. 15, 2020. 

New York City Bar, "Testimony before the City Council on New York City’s Detainer Laws," Feb. 16, 2023. 

New York State Office of the Attorney General, Dear Colleague letter re: Francis v. DeMarco, April 8, 2020. 

New York City Department of Correction, "Summary of Discharges of Persons in Custody with Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detainers Fiscal Year 2023."

USA Today, "NYC Mayor Eric Adams wants changes to sanctuary city laws, increased cooperation with ICE,"  Feb. 28, 2024. 

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In debate over sanctuary policies, patchwork of laws and edicts limit cooperation in New York

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