New Suffolk Sheriff To Continue Honoring ICE ‘Warrants’ Not Signed By Judges

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There’s a new sheriff in town—and, he’s sticking with the same policies that have continued to undermine a cooperative relationship between the immigrant community and law enforcement.

Errol Toulon Jr., elected as the Suffolk County sheriff in December 2017, said at a media roundtable in Yaphank last week that the county would continue to honor “administrative warrants” from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Therefore, if undocumented immigrants are arrested and eligible for release before trial, the sheriff’s office will keep them detained until they are picked up by ICE. This policy was first implemented in 2016 by the previous sheriff, Vincent DeMarco, which marked a reversal of the county’s previous requirement of needing a judge’s order to continue holding an immigrant.

“If you look at the administrative detainers, there’s probable cause,” Toulon said, according to Riverhead Local. “So we’re giving the law enforcement agency, which we would do with anyone—it says probable cause, we’re going to hold them.”

Though Toulon looks at “probable cause,” the county would be holding immigrants based on alleged civil, not criminal, violations. As such, Massachusetts’ highest court of law ruled on the very same issue in July 2017, deciding that the state could not hold immigrants without judicial warrants. Setting precedent, the ruling makes it clear that it is illegal for local authorities to detain immigrants solely based on administrative “warrants” from ICE.

And, in December 2017, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, arguing that the county is not empowered by state law to honor ICE’s administrative detainer requests.

As previous reporting has shown, honoring ICE administrative detainers also further damages community trust in law enforcement. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center published data in January that showed that Suffolk, as well as Nassau, cooperate with the feds by often hold immigrants based only on administrative ICE warrants and extensively share information with their agents.

As the report states, when immigrants know their police will not hand them over to be deported on little more than ICE requests, they are “better integrated, more secure, and more involved in our communities.”

“Their children are less likely to live in fear of losing a parent. Crime has continued to fall,” the report read.”

Also, neither of Long Island’s counties have 287(g) agreements with ICE, which allow counties to enter into contracts with feds to deputize their police force into local arms of ICE. As per such agreements, local police are to receive appropriate training and protocols on handling immigrant enforcement. Handling those with undocumented status requires special training and exercise of discretion, hence the mandated training.

So, not only do local law enforcement lack the necessary education to handle deportations, but they may also lack the legal authority to do so, as Massachusetts has shown. Despite this, Toulon will continue a failed policy that will further deteriorate the trust that enables bonafide cooperation. Long Island’s law enforcement agencies have claimed that they will only go after criminals, but aligning themselves with maladaptive federal policy sends a starkly different message.

If this continues, immigrants, regardless of their status, will continue to be skeptical and fearful of law enforcement, leading to empty witness stands, unreported crime, and ultimately a less safe Long Island.

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Jano Tantongco is the online editor of Long Island Wins. He's previously worked in community journalism as a staff reporter for The Long Islander and The Queens Courier. He aims to pursue truth through a combination of rational inquiry and intuition. He also enjoys bossa nova, road trips and zen philosophy.

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