Suffolk County Breaks ICE’s Hold, Stops Honoring Immigration Detainer

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A victory for Suffolk County immigrants.

Long Islanders today congratulated Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco for his decision to end his department’s, which oversees Suffolk Correctional Facilities, cooperation with Federal Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) holds. This new policy decision will promote improved relations with Latino and immigrant communities and protect the County from liability for potentially violating residents’ rights.

Under Secure Communities—a federal immigration enforcement program that has come under increasing fire from groups and elected officials across the country—ICE holds can be placed on individuals while in Suffolk County jails.

Recently, federal courts have found that honoring such holds is optional and that keeping people with such holds incarcerated for any additional time could leave the County liable for violating Constitutional protections. The Sheriff’s new policy wisely ends cooperation with such holds unless a judicial warrant is presented, which will both 1) strengthen trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement and 2) reduce future County liability.

Immigrant community members and advocates applauded Sheriff DeMarco for his leadership on this issue:

“This new policy is vital for protecting immigrants from the misguided ‘Secure Communities’ program that has so damaged our communities,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “While the federal government has failed to act on immigration reform, localities must continue to act to protect immigrants. We applaud Sheriff DeMarco for adopting this critical measure to increase the trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.”

“No New Yorker should be detained without probable cause or a judicial warrant for his or her arrest, regardless of immigration status,” said Amol Sinha, director of the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Suffolk County has one of the largest immigrant populations in New York. We applaud Sheriff DeMarco for being one of the leading forces in the state to stop unlawfully detaining people and respecting their constitutional rights.”

Gabriela Castillo, staff attorney at SEPA Mujer, said: “SEPA Mujer applauds the Suffolk County Sheriff’s shift in policy of no longer honoring ICE Detainers. We are confident that this is a step in the right direction in ensuring that families in Suffolk County are no longer separated due to ineffective policies such as Secure Communities, and in building trusting relationships with the immigrant communities that reside here.  The efforts of advocates and Sheriff DeMarco, who worked jointly on this new policy, are a true testament to the dedication and commitment both sides share in collaborating on issues that impact Suffolk County.”

“This policy will help reassure immigrant families in Suffolk that the local police are there to serve and protect them, not to make them into targets for the federal government’s mass deportation program,” said Ana María Archila, co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Sheriff DeMarco has taken an important step towards making Suffolk County a safe and welcoming place for immigrants who call it home. We encourage other counties in New York State to follow his lead by refusing to spend local resources carrying out our unfair immigration policies.”

“Sheriffs around the country are realizing that ICE is asking them to hold immigrants past their release dates with no probable cause, exposing their counties to liability and violating immigrants’ civil rights,” said Andrea Saenz, clinical teaching fellow at the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law. “Suffolk County has made a very smart choice in saying no to this flawed system.”

Victoria Daza, organizer with Long Island Jobs with Justice, said, “The decision to not cooperate with ICE hold requests will have a tremendous impact on the immigrant community of Suffolk County. It will reduce the amount of families separated and a great step forward towards making immigrant communities safer.”

Cheryl Keshner, of the Empire Justice Center, said, “We thank Suffolk County Sheriff DeMarco for joining with other law enforcement agencies who are refusing to honor ICE detainers. There is something horribly wrong when a routine traffic stop or a minor trespassing charge escalates into placing an individual into deportation proceedings.  We hope that now Suffolk’s immigrant communities will no longer continue to face this daily fear and instability.”