U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) collaborated with local law enforcement, including in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, to arrest 214 alleged MS-13 gang members across the United States in what feds call “Operation Raging Bull.”
Of those, 38 arrests took place on Long Island, an ICE spokesperson confirmed on Friday.
In an ICE press release published yesterday on the operation, both Nassau and Suffolk police commissioners expressed their intent to cooperate with ICE.
“The Suffolk County Police Department is committed to eradicating MS-13 from our communities, and that would not be possible without close collaboration with our law enforcement partners in HSI,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini. “Through strategic targeting of gang members, focusing on known hot-spot locations frequented by gang members and sharing intelligence with our fellow law enforcement agencies, we have continued our successful efforts to remove MS-13 members from our streets.”
“The Nassau County Police Department has always enjoyed a cohesive relationship with HSI and ICE to combat crime and arrest the individuals associated with it,” said Nassau Commissioner of Police Patrick Ryder.” Moving forward we will continue to work toward this common goal with continuous exchanges of resources and intelligence to keep our communities, residents and our children safe.”
While actions that actually take down MS-13 are commendable, based on previous examples, it has been demonstrated that ICE—especially under the Trump administration—has wielded a destructively heavy hand that seeks to deputize local police and tear apart the fabric of community trust in law enforcement.
Westbury resident Luis Mendez, General Advisor of the Long Island Hispanic Soccer Federation and former Deputy Director of Nassau County’s Office of Minority Affairs, supports actions to curb the gang’s activities, but also questioned the effectiveness of such raids. Salvadoran himself, Mendez is intimately tapped into the pulse of Long Island’s Central American population.
“It’s a double-edged sword, we want enforcement of MS-13, we don’t want gang members here, all of us, but we at the same time, we don’t want innocent people to pay the price,” Mendez said. “It deeply impacts their ability to report crime because you don’t know whether or not you are reporting yourself. People from Central America have a hesitation in dealing with government because they don’t trust government, based on where they’re from.”
For immigrants and advocates alike, confronting the gang problem is certainly a priority. However, using purely law enforcement, raid-centric methods will reap short-term gains and good press at the cost of the long-term erosion of trust.
That trust is foundational in enabling actual community cooperation with officials to stop crime before it happens. If immigrants fear law enforcement, they will not report anything until it is too late. The solution will be found in a purposeful shift to an atmosphere of transparency and accountability that prioritizes the integrity of the relationship with the community and police.
Hazy and ambiguous cooperation with the federal government may not only threaten a community’s security, but also potentially individual civil rights.
It should be noted that in 2014, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman advised local police chiefs and sheriffs across the state that compliance with ICE administrative warrants is voluntary, since ICE’s practices had come under increasing scrutiny and criticism.
“Decisions about whether to respond to such requests for notification are voluntary and compliance with these requests remains at the discretion of the local law enforcement agency,” Schneiderman wrote.