Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn asked two judges Monday to compel New York City to provide immigration authorities information about a pair of inmates accused of being in the country unlawfully.
The court motions come amid an escalating conflict between the Trump administration and the nation’s largest city over its so-called sanctuary policies.
They also reflect the federal government’s frustration with jurisdictions that do not honor deportation “detainers” or give any information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about defendants going in and out of local custody.
Federal prosecutors filed court papers Monday saying New York City has not responded to subpoenas from ICE last month seeking information on a handful of inmates who were released from custody despite requests by immigration officials that they be turned over for deportation.
City officials say the subpoenas lack a legitimate purpose and called them a “political stunt” that seeks information that ICE could obtain through other means.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has accused ICE of employing “scare tactics.”
“When Congress authorized administrative subpoenas, it did not intend that they be abused to punish cities and states for exercising the rights afforded to them by the constitutional system of federalism,” James Johnson, head of the city’s law department, wrote in a letter to ICE.
ICE has said city officials could be held in contempt of court if they disregard a federal judge’s order to comply with the subpoenas.
In one of the subpoenas, ICE requested information about a Guyanese man charged last month with sexually assaulting and killing Maria Fuertas, a 92-year-old Queens woman.
That case became a flashpoint in the conflict after ICE officials said the city had released the woman’s alleged attacker, Reeaz Khan, 21, on earlier assault charges rather than turn him over for deportation. Khan was charged with murder Jan. 10 and remains in custody.
ICE officials have blamed city leaders for Fuertas’ death.
“It is this city’s sanctuary policies that are the sole reason this criminal was allowed to roam the streets freely and end an innocent woman’s life,” Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence told reporters last month.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn asked U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross to compel city leaders to provide identification information about Khan, including his home and employment addresses, so federal authorities can locate him in the event he is released from custody.
Those details are “clearly relevant to ICE’s investigation of Khan,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
City Hall spokeswoman Julia Arredondo said Monday that ICE “is clearly attempting to exploit tragic circumstances in order to intimidate the City of New York into changing its laws and policies.”
“Reeaz Khan has been arrested and is sitting behind bars as he awaits trial, and if convicted, the City will cooperate with federal officials in accordance with local law,” Arredondo said in an emailed statement.
ICE did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The agency has sent similar subpoenas to the city of Denver and warned it might send more to other sanctuary jurisdictions.
Federal prosecutors also filed a request Monday that the city be compelled to turn over details about an inmate released from custody last year who is charged in Manhattan federal court with illegally re-entering the United States after being deported in 2015.
That request has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee of Brooklyn.