ICE Detainer Rejection List Shames Nassau for Building Relations With Immigrants

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

This week, ICE put out its first press release denouncing police departments around the country for not carrying out the detention of immigrants for purely immigration purposes. Similar reports will appear every week for the next four years. These reports are not required by the law and have never been issued before. They are only being issued because President Donald Trump wants them to be. He hopes to “shame” the police into abandoning long-standing procedures in dealing with immigrants.

The relationship between ICE and local law enforcement varies around the country. In some areas, police work as virtual adjuncts to ICE. In others, there is almost no cooperation. Most adopt an intermediate stance. Nassau and Suffolk Counties occupy this less defined territory. Both counties honor orders issued by judges, but county police don’t enforce all so-called administrative orders. These are orders issued by ICE that have not been approved by a judge and which it is not compulsory for the police to carry out.

The first report appeared on Monday and covered January 28, 2017 through February 3, 2017. It showed Nassau County as having the second largest number of “declined detainers.” In other words, Nassau County law enforcement turned down the second largest number of ICE detainers in the country. We don’t know how accurate this statistic is. ICE has already admitted that it made a mistake in its characterization of Nassau County’s detainer policy. There are a number of statements in the press release itself that show contradictions and inaccuracies.

These ICE numbers are as trustworthy as other information coming out of the Trump administration.

The detainers themselves are not the products of normal judicial action. Detainer requests are often triggered just by being arrested. Even if the person is not charged or was mistakenly arrested, the ICE detainer will be issued. In the past, the immigration courts provided a level of protection for the person held on an ICE detainer. However, under a new executive order, Trump wants to take away even that protection. He plans to allow people to be deported without ever seeing a judge.

Local police are right to decline these warrantless detainers. The job of the police is to protect local communities. This requires the cooperation of the jurisdiction’s immigrants. If the police are seen as an adjunct to ICE, immigrants will be afraid to cooperate with law enforcement. Rather than make us safer, ICE detainers put us all in jeopardy. Shaming the police for building trust and cooperation in the immigrant community by practicing good community policing is a shameful federal policy.

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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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