Zhang Kui, an immigrant from Fujian, China, was asked to assist a New York
City Police murder investigation in the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown. According
a report by the Chinese newspaper Singtao Daily, the police later found that
Zhang is an undocumented immigrant and reported him to the federal immigrant
agency, where he is now facing deportation.
Stories such as Zhang's are causing concern among immigrant rights groups who
worry that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive order 34, which allows police,
city agencies and services to ask people about their immigration status and
then report them to the federal authority, will disrupt the lives of more than
undocumented immigrants in New York City.
Within days of the announcement, groups of immigrant advocacy groups and some
public officials took to the streets to protest. Facing so much opposition,
Mayor Bloomberg said in July that he is considering changing the order.
"Although the mayor believes on the merits it is a good order, he is
considering revising it because of the harm its misconceptions have cause," said
Edward Skyler, the mayor's press secretary.
While the mayor is revising his new policy, some fear immigrants will continue
shunning city services and refusing to cooperate with the police.
"[The new order] will radically change the city's relationship to its millions
of immigrant residents," Moises Perez, executive director of Alianza Dominicana,
who was in the protest at City Hall, told the Daily News.
In the past, an executive order issued by Mayor Edward Koch barred city employees
from reporting undocumented aliens to immigration authorities. But in 1996,
Congress passed a law stating that the city cannot forbid their employees from
information about an undocumented immigrant to federal agents.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani refused to comply with the law and challenged its legality.
In 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit ruled that Koch's
executive order was unconstitutional.
After the September 11 attack, the federal government encouraged local police
to work with immigration agencies and allowed them to inquire about the immigration
status of suspects. Under the new executive order, police can now report illegal
immigrants to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Since the court ruling, city officials have not clarified their policy toward
undocumented immigrants. A few weeks before issuing the order, Mayor Bloomberg
himself said on his weekly radio show that all undocumented immigrants should
be made citizens.
The timing of the new executive order has to do with pressure from Washington
to clarify the city's position on reporting illegal immigrants, according to
a Daily News report.
As reported in this
column two months ago, the City Council is now sponsoring
a bill (Intro 326), "Access
Without Fear" that
would allow immigrants to get access to the city's health and social services
without having to worry abut their status.
"In a city that is 40 percent foreign-born, it is essential that [immigrant]
communities don't fear accessing city services," said City Councilmember
Hiram Monserrate, who is the main sponsor of the bill. An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen.
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