Suffolk County law enforcement top brass attempted to distance themselves from federal immigration enforcement last week at a meeting of the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee, but their past actions contradict the picture they are trying to paint.
As Newsday reports, advocates expressed concerns at the meeting that immigrants stopped for even minor violations were at risk of deportation.
Suffolk police chief Stuart Cameron told the committee that it was not police policy to inquire about immigration status. However, he did affirm that the department does cooperate with federal agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
But, as advocates and family members of detainees told Suffolk lawmakers last month, Newsday wrote, immigrants have been stopped for traffic violations that led to them being deported.
In addition, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon said that the jails don’t serve as detention centers for ICE, but added that two ICE officers do have workspace at county jails. And, as Long Island Wins reported previously, when Toulon was elected in December 2017, he said the sheriff’s office would continue to honor administrative warrants from ICE.
Despite outcry from advocates, Long Island law enforcement choose to honor administrative ICE warrants that are not signed by judges instead of standing up to the White House’s deportation machine to keep immigrants and the community at-large safe.
Last year, 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, which are actually signed by judges.
Also, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center published data in January that showed that both Suffolk and Nassau counties cooperate with the feds by often holding immigrants based only on administrative ICE warrants and extensively share information with their agents.
“ICE has a very specific and very different role than the Suffolk County police, and clearly if we’re inquiring about people’s immigration status, it’s adverse to public safety, because they’re going to be afraid to report crimes to us,” chief Cameron said at the meeting.
While it is a step forward that Cameron understands that inquiring about immigration status undermines public safety, Long Island’s immigrant community is still fearful. As long as Suffolk and Nassau honor ICE’s administrative warrants, they effectively operate as deputies for the federal agency, despite their PR attempts at obfuscating their connection to the mass deportation agenda.