Immigration Reform News & Laws 2014: New York Sheriff Refusing to Detain Immigrants Without Warrant
A New York Sheriff is ending his cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the controversial Secure Communities program.
Long Island Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent F. De Marco issued a memorandum last week to all personnel not to hold an inmate "soley on an ICE detainer" unless ICE issued a warrant, as reported by Newsday.
Under the Secure Communities program, sheriff departments across the United States are holding immigrants in jail for up to two days who were flagged for deportation by ICE before they are taken into federal custody.
Suffolk and Nassau County joined the program in 2011.
In 2012, Suffolk County submitted over 55,000 names to the ICE database with over 3,900 matches, which led to 357 removals. Nassau County submitted over 29,000 names, with over over 3,100 matches resulting in 239 removals, according to ICE's own statistics.
Nassau County ended its cooperation under the program in June, joining 200 departments nationwide.
Immigration advocates have applauded the reversals, arguing the decision will improve relations with Latino and immigrant communities and held a press conference on Wednesday in Brentwood, New York.
"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. We hope other counties in New York and across the nation will come to the same understanding."
The controversial program suffered several setbacks when federal court decisions in Oregon and Pennsylvania found that police departments and sheriff offices without warrants were violating the constitutional rights of inmates.
In the Oregon federal case, the judge found that the ICE directive to hold immigrants for two days had been interpreted by county sheriffs as mandatory, when in fact it would have held the sheriff's office accountable for wrongful immigration detainment.
"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 Suffolk's immigrant communities will no longer continue to face this daily fear and instability," said Cheryl Keshner of the Empire Justice Center.
At the height of the program, according to ICE's statistics, over 200,000 immigrants have been deported.
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