Department of Justice (DOJ) officials met with the Suffolk immigrant community Monday night, the latest in a multi-year series of meetings monitoring the implementation of an agreement with the Suffolk Police Department.
The agreement came following the killing of Marcelo Lucero in November 2008. The Justice Department began an investigation in 2009 and reached an agreement with the police to correct policies that prevented immigrants from reporting crimes.
Cheryl Keshner, senior paralegal and community advocate with the Empire Justice Center, asked the Justice Department’s representatives if the new leadership in the DOJ under Jeff Sessions had changed anything about enforcement of the agreement. The answer was intended to reassure the county’s immigrants that the department’s work in Suffolk County was not being deprioritized.
“We are doing the job, and we will continue to do the job, we will continue to work on this case and we have been told nothing different,” said Assistant United States Attorney Michael Goldberger.
One of the attendees said that her understanding was that the oversight would only last for three years and that the termination date was fast approaching.
“The agreement was anticipated to end in three years, as long as we found that they are in compliance with the agreement,” said Goldberger. “They are not yet.”
He assured the participants that the DOJ will not end its involvement until the police department is in compliance for a full year.
While the community members expressed relief that the DOJ will continue its monitoring of the Suffolk police, several said that the police seem to still be far from compliance.
Irma Solis, New York Civil Liberties Union Suffolk County Chapter Director, asked how long would Suffolk immigrants have to wait for the police to even come up with basic data on police stops that had been promised years ago. Without basic data, it is impossible to assess compliance, she told the Justice Department representatives.
Many of the participants warned that increased police involvement in ICE immigration enforcement has broken down the already shaky trust of immigrants in the police. Police, they said, are now seen as working in cooperation with ICE under the guise of anti-gang enforcement action.