The New York City Council voted last week to impede federal enforcement of immigration law at the expense of public safety by helping criminal aliens in city jails hide from federal officials. Introduction 486 and Introduction 487, which were rushed through Council last week, prohibit officers in the New York City Police Department and the New York Department of Corrections from complying with detainer requests from federal immigration officials in all but very limited circumstances.

A detainer request asks local law enforcement agencies to hold on to a criminal alien for up to 48 hours so that a federal official may obtain custody of the criminal alien for the purpose of removal from the United States. In almost all cases, the legislation requires federal immigration officials to present a judicial warrant before a New York City law enforcement officer can comply. The problem with that requirement, however, is that removal from the country is a civil proceeding. Judicial warrants generally are unavailable to federal immigration officials unless they also file criminal charges against an alien. As even illegal alien advocates admit, the requirement of a judicial warrant will “in practice . . . end all deportation holds.”

The consequences of not cooperating with federal immigration officials will be dire. New York City law enforcement will be forced to release criminal aliens, whom already over-hesitant federal immigration officials have determined to be threats to public safety or national security, back onto the streets. What’s even more outrageous is that many of the criminal aliens subject to detainer requests have no legal right to remain in the United States in the first place.

Illegal alien advocates argue that this type of legislation is necessary to promote public safety because it establishes trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. It is absurd, however, to suggest that immigrants do not want their communities kept safe from criminal aliens. Moreover, police do not inquire about the immigration status of witnesses or victims of crime, much less fingerprint them. The only people who will be protected under Introduction 486 and Introduction 487 are criminals who fall within the Obama administration’s extremely narrowed priorities for removal.

The New York City Council demonstrated last week cares more about criminals unlawfully present in the United States than it does about protecting its own constituents. It is almost unheard of that a law enforcement agency would refuse to cooperate with another law enforcement agency. Yet, unfortunately, for a growing number of communities under political pressure, making illegal aliens feel comfortable seems to be taking precedence over comity between brothers and sisters in uniform in need of assistance. Refusing to cooperate and assist fellow law enforcement is not a legitimate way for state and local governments to express opposition to immigration policies.