New York’s migrant crisis is typically viewed in terms of the billions of dollars it is costing the city to house and feed them. This past week another dimension of the problem came into view.
Media accounts differ somewhat, but as we understand it, last Saturday night three New York Police Department officers attempted to break up a fight outside a migrant shelter in Midtown Manhattan, reportedly involving 12-14 of the migrant residents. Some of the migrants thereupon set upon the officers, kicking and stomping them. Police say they have a dozen suspects in the assault. Four suspects were arrested the night of the attack and a fifth suspect was arrested several days later.
Although the charges were bail-eligible offenses, prosecutors didn’t ask for bail for any of the defendants saying thy needed more time to determine each defendant’s precise role. All five were freed on their own recognizance.
Upon their release without having to post bail, four of the suspects used false names to obtain bus tickets and have left New York. It was bad enough when bail reform sent the message to our home-grown wrong-doers that New York’s justice system is of the turnstile variety. It is a worse still message when prosecutors look for ways to avoid bail even when it is authorized by law.
This is especially true when migrants who already have grown up in countries with compromised law enforcement are cut loose and likely never have to show up in court to answer charges against them. Aren’t we cultivating a stratum of indifference to the criminal law? Indeed, why should they not think that they are not free to do anything they want without legal consequence?
It’s time to get serious about how to ensure defendants are not able to disappear into the ether – even if some feathers are ruffled in the process. It has been a problem that burst into view with the advent of bail reform several years ago. It just got more urgent.