Clean Slate applies to warrants for offenses like public drinking.
NYPD officers writing tickets for public drinking at Coney Island Boardwalk ()

To protect immigrants from deportation, Mayor Bill de Blasio should instruct the New York City Police Department to issue civil citations for low-level, nonviolent offenses instead of making arrests, the New York City Bar Association recommended in a letter to de Blasio.

Last year, New York City passed a package of laws called the Criminal Justice Reform Act including legislation to allow low-level violations like littering, public urination and drinking in public to be treated as civil, rather than criminal, offenses.

In its letter to de Blasio, the city bar also notes that City Council has urged police to issue civil citations whenever possible. But it also notes that issuance of the citations remains discretionary, and that civil citations should be issued in cases where there is no apparent threat to public safety.

“Arresting immigrants in New York for low-level offenses renders immigrant communities vulnerable, drives a wedge between police and communities, and endangers public safety,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by Philip Desgranges of the New York Civil Liberties Union and chair of the city bar’s Civil Rights Committee; Lauren Jones of the Anti-Defamation League, who is also a member of the Civil Rights Committee; Kerry Ward of the Office of Court Administration, who chairs the city bar’s Criminal Courts Committee; and Farrin Anello of the Seton Hall University School of Law, who chairs the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee.

The city bar’s letter comes amid stepped-up enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and one day after ICE announced that, between Jan. 22 and April 29, agents made 40,318 civil immigration arrests, a 37.6 percent increase over the same period in 2016.