Cuomo Executive Order Prohibits State Police From Most ICE Enforcement

(Photo/Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit)

On Friday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 170 prohibiting state agencies and officers from inquiring about or disclosing an individual’s immigration status unless required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service.

The order came in response to increased fear of public officials in immigrant communities around the state caused by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. Issued 10 days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it once again placed New York state government on the side of immigrants.

Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, applauded the order.

“This executive order is a forceful statement from Governor Cuomo that immigrants are not the enemy,” he said Friday afternoon. “Together with our partners across the state we have been dealing with the ongoing problem of state police coordinating with CBP and ICE, and we’re grateful for the governor’s action.”

Since Donald Trump took office, State Police have increasingly confused their law enforcement role with ICE’s deportation agenda. Choi said that Cuomo “understands that it will not make New Yorkers safer when working people avoid law enforcement and state government for fear of deportation.”

While Cuomo’s move is welcome, it only covers state employees. We have seen many local police, most recently the Nassau County Police Department, carry out immigration enforcement actions. Choi called on “local law enforcement to follow the Governor’s lead and look forward to working with the administration to successfully implement the order to best serve public safety and justice for all.”

Under the new executive order “No law enforcement officers shall inquire about an individual’s immigration status unless investigating such individual’s illegal activity, provided however that such inquiry is relevant to the illegal activity under investigation. Nothing in this section shall restrict law enforcement officers from seeking documents for the purpose of identification following arrest.”

Under this order, state police are barred from inquiring about immigration status unless investigating criminal activity.

“As Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy, we are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York became the Empire State due to the contributions of immigrants from every corner of the globe and we will not let the politics of fear and intimidation divide us.”

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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