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Hispanic Immigrants in New York Protest US Deportation Policy

Immigrant rights supporters attend a pro-immigration rally in New York City, 19 Oct 2010
Immigrant rights supporters attend a pro-immigration rally in New York City, 19 Oct 2010

Many Hispanic immigrants in New York are demanding that the city limit the information it provides federal immigration authorities about who is in local jails. They say that information often leads to the deportation of loved ones.

Hundreds of Hispanic workers and family members marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan on Tuesday, demanding that local officials stop telling the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, about who New York City holds in custody.

"In New York City, there are thousands of people who are arrested by police, fairly or unfairly. They are taken to Riker's Island, the biggest city jail, and they are deported, even if they are found to be innocent," said one of the protesters.

The concern demonstrators have for their friends and relatives coincides with a flood of illegal immigrants into the United States. Many immigrant families in the United States include not only citizens, but also legal and illegal aliens. The New York City Department of Corrections says it is complying with federal regulations that require it to inform ICE about illegal immigrants.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas says the law must be enforced.

"Our nations' history, our legal history, our jurisprudential history, is as much a nation of immigrants as a nation of laws. We do not have open borders. Our immigration system is a regulated one," says Mayorkas.

Those regulations grant ICE the authority to deport anyone who is in the United States illegally, even if they are innocent of the charges for which they were originally arrested.

But protesters say it is unfair to deport someone who is arrested for a minor infraction or who has grown up in the United States.

Mayorkas, an immigrant from Cuba, says the United States continues to welcome immigrants. But he says immigration must be regulated to avoid diluting the benefits of citizenship for all Americans.