The de Blasio administration on Wednesday stood by the NYPD’s aggressive fare-beating policing strategies — as part of a larger defense of Broken Windows — against concerns that the tactics could aid in the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
“We believe in quality of life policing,” de Blasio said at his monthly crime briefing with the NYPD. “We believe it’s one of the reasons this city has gotten safer for a quarter century and … we continue to get safer. We’re not changing a formula that works.”
But City Council members and advocacy groups argue that those very same strategies could assist President Donald Trump’s ramped-up efforts to deport immigrants here illegally — a community de Blasio has pledged to protect.
That focus has sharpened on MTA fare-beating, which accounts for tens of thousands of arrests each year that police say is a factor in historically safe subways.
With fares set to rise again, policing that many felt has unfairly targeted the poor has taken on added fears.
“Nobody should be subject to deportation because they jumped a turnstile,” said Queens Councilman Rory Lancman on NY1’s Road to City Hall on Tuesday evening. “The question is: Are the consequences calibrated to the conduct that people are engaging in and more importantly, in this context, are the consequences calibrated to the context of being the fuel for Donald Trump’s deportation machine.”
Last year, the NYPD arrested 24,591 people for fare evasion, or “theft of services,” and issued 67,166 civil summonses for the offense. As with other quality-of-life offenses, police can use their own discretion on enforcing fare evasion. Fare-beating arrests, not civil summonses, can aid U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in deportations because they’re considered a “crime involving moral turpitude” under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
Larry Byrne, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal affairs, said at the briefing that a civil summons is issued to a fare beater the first three times they are caught. After that, the person will be arrested and fingerprinted, and ICE becomes aware that they’re in police custody.
The offense, though, is not one of the 170 crimes for which the NYPD would honor an ICE detainer, or a request for cops to hold a criminal in custody until they can be turned over to the agency.
Still, Andrea Sáenz, the supervising immigration attorney at Brooklyn Defenders Services, said the arrest alone presents a grave risk.
“With or without a detainer, ICE can arrest people at home, work, and court, detain them or release them, and give them a court date for deportation proceedings in which their charges are based on offenses like fare-evasion and counterfeit handbags,” Sáenz said in a statement. “This absolutely happens to New Yorkers, even if the NYPD is not aware of it.”