Reuven Blau, New York Post, May 9, 2010
An illegal immigrant with a long rap sheet got a $145,000 parting gift from New York City taxpayers before he was deported, after city lawyers decided his civil rights had been violated when he was held too long on Rikers Island.
Federal rules allow local law enforcement to detain suspected illegal immigrants for 48 hours after their criminal cases are resolved, to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement a chance to pick them up and move them to federal facilities.
Former Brooklyn resident Cecil Harvey, 55–backed by an immigration-rights advocacy group–argued that his rights were violated when he spent more than a month in a Rikers holding pen before being transferred to ICE.
The landmark settlement has prompted the Correction Department to dump scores of illegal immigrants on the streets, since federal officials often fail to pick them up within the required two-day window.
Federal immigration agents have office space on Rikers Island, and the city allows them to interview roughly 4,000 inmates each year. They put a hold, or “detainer,” on 3,200 of those inmates who they discover are illegals.
But ICE often fails to transfer those detainees within the required 48 hours of their criminal cases being resolved, multiple jail sources said.
“We just release them now,” one high-ranking jail supervisor said. “It’s ICE’s problem to go find these guys.”