NYPD union head publicly fights against sanctuary city status

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The president of the sergeants union said limiting deportation puts cops at risk.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The head of New York’s police sergeants union is publicly challenging the city’s “sanctuary city” status, which offers protection against deportation to the thousands of undocumented immigrants living within city limits.

During a Sunday radio show, Sergeants Benevolent Associate (SBA) President Ed Mullins called the decision to protect immigrants “total lunacy” and claimed that officers’ lives are endangered because of it.

One month after Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed New York City’s status as a sanctuary city — meaning local cops won’t be deputized to enforce federal immigration orders — NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill released a memo instructing officers to remain hands off.

“The NYPD does not conduct civil immigration enforcement. Specifically, this department does not enforce administrative warrants issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or federal immigration judges solely in connection with civil immigration violations,” wrote O’Neill. “For example, the NYPD does not arrest or detain individuals for immigration violations such as overstaying a lawfully issued visa.”

But Mullins slammed that stance on the AM 970 show “The Cat’s Roundtable,” arguing that the city’s officers are eager to enforce Trump’s immigration order to round up and deport undocumented immigrants who commit any criminal offense. He claimed the decision to harbor such immigrants was intended to win over voters, and that there’s a “moral obligation” to enforce “the direction of the law.” He also framed immigrants as a threat to cops.

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“If a member of law enforcement is killed or a member of the public is killed, well that public official that plays this game or that member of law enforcement that play this game, they better be prepared to answer for that,” Mullins said. “And this will no doubt some time along the line happen, because we’ve seen it happen across the country.”

De Blasio and O’Neill have both argued the opposite: that refusing to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants actually boosts public safety because it allows vulnerable people to report crimes without fear of prosecution.

“It is critical that everyone who comes into contact with the NYPD, regardless of their immigration status, be able to identify themselves or seek assistance without hesitation, anxiety or fear,” O’Neill wrote in his memo.

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In response to Mullins’ radio hit, a spokesman for O’Neill reiterated that public safety is the goal, and that the NYPD is still complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by adhering to “clearly established policies and practices relating to the processing of ICE detainer requests.” There are still 170 serious crimes that the NYPD has agreed to flag for ICE.

The reality is that immigrants typically commit fewer crimes than American-born citizens, and research does not suggest that undocumented immigrants are more dangerous than citizens.

But Mullins’ fearmongering aligns with Trump’s executive orders, which paint undocumented immigrants with a broad brush and assume that they are all criminals who must be deported or future terrorists. As the head of a union that boasts immeasurable influence over the largest police force in the country, Mullins’ position is particularly dangerous. It signals a potentially damaging schism in a metropolitan area that boasts the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the country — 1.2 million, according to the Pew Research Center.

It also comes at a time when ICE agents argue their jobs are more “fun” under Trump’s presidency and say they feel emboldened to ramp up their efforts to track and deport people.

NYPD union head publicly fights against sanctuary city status was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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