By Alexander Dworkowitz
A congressional subcommittee has begun examining the city’s policy on reporting crimes committed by illegal immigrants following the arrest of five men on charges of gang raping a woman in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in December.
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), chairman of the House’s subcommittee on immigration and border security, held a hearing last Thursday on the practices of police departments in New York City and other large urban centers.
The Dec. 19 attack was a catalyst for the hearing. According to authorities, a group of five homeless men assaulted a couple in Flushing Meadows, dragged the woman off to a shantytown near the Long Island Rail Road tracks and repeatedly raped her, threatening to kill her. The attack lasted three hours and was only stopped when a police dog discovered the men.
Four of the five men arrested entered the country illegally and three of those men had criminal records, sources said.
The subcommittee met to question why the three immigrants with criminal records had been allowed to stay in the country after their convictions.
“The hearing was called to address the sanctuary policy that cities like New York and Houston and San Francisco have and to see if that interferes with the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] doing its job,” said Michael Jahr, Hostettler’s press secretary.
The city’s sanctuary policy dates back to the administration of Mayor Edward Koch, who forbade city police from telling the INS of arrests of non-citizens.
The policy was instituted with victims of domestic violence in mind. Advocates for women feared victims would not report their husband or boyfriend if they thought filing a report would lead to deportation of their partner.
But a 1996 federal law overturned the city’s policy, allowing but not mandating police to report the arrests to authorities.
The Flushing Meadows case raised questions of whether or not the city has changed its practice.
“We were trying to find out, has New York truly stopped applying this sanctuary policy?” Jahr said.
Jahr said discussion on the policy “was already in the mix,” but it was the brutal Flushing Meadows assault which led to the hearing.
Latin Americans Luis Carmona, 20; Victor Cruz, 22; Jose Hernandez, 18; Carlos Rodriguez, 22; and Aramando Juvenal, 20, have been charged with rape, sodomy, kidnapping and robbery in connection with the attack and are awaiting trial, the Queens district attorney said.
Hernandez, Rodriguez and Juvenal entered the country illegally and had been convicted of crimes, some of which occurred in New York City, before their recent arrests, sources said. While most were misdemeanor offenses such as marijuana possession, both Rodriguez and Juvenal were convicted of robbery charges, sources said.
Hernandez, Rodriguez and Cruz are natives of Mexico, while Juvenal is from Ecuador, sources said.
Cruz entered the country illegally but had no criminal record, while Carmona entered legally and had been convicted of marijuana possession charges, sources said.
At last week’s hearing, John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said it was the INS’s policies, not the city’s, that caused problems involving illegal immigrants.
“It is our experience that when the INS responds, it only will respond to the most serious, the most notorious, the most heinous cases,” Feinblatt was quoted as saying in the Daily News.
Feinblatt argued that INS told the city the agency did not have the power to respond to minor cases.
Jahr said the subcommittee was also looking into the policies of the INS.
“I would not be surprised if the INS and everybody else said they need more resources,” he said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.