Long Island sheriffs won't continue immigrant detentions

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Kristin Thorne reports from Riverhead. (WABC)

Long Island sheriff's departments no longer will hold immigrants who are awaiting deportation in jail unless federal officials produce warrants from a judge.

The agency in Suffolk said in a memorandum last week it would not cooperate in the controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called Secure Communities. Nassau curtailed its participation in June.

A typical ICE detainer lasts about 48 hours, but in recent years there have been some federal court rulings saying there is more of a request than a mandate.

So the Suffolk sheriff said if they continue with this policy, they are asking for civil rights lawsuits.

He said he had to do this to protect the taxpayers.

"You never know when someone is undocumented what could happen right? Anything could happen. So that for me is a big fear," said Amityville resident Luba Cortes.

Luba Cortes and her mother Clara are two of the thousands of undocumented people living on Long Island.

Luba says you always have this fear that if you get detained you would be held for days.

But a new policy in Suffolk County says that immigration officials must have a warrant from a judge in order to hold someone solely on an immigration violation.

"Laws are not a stagnant thing. The interpretation of them changes on case law. And based on the review by federal courts we felt like it was important to react to that," said Chief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff's office.

"Today is a great day. It's a great day for all Suffolk County residents," said Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road New York, one of the groups which pushed for the change.

"What it means is that there's going to be greater trust between local law enforcement and communities here on Long Island because there will not be people who are afraid to report crimes and interact with police for fear they will get ensnared in the immigration enforcement process," said Altschuler.

A spokesman for ICE tells us these detainers are placed on individuals who have committed crimes and just releasing them into the community is dangerous.

The sheriff's office confirms there are 114 inmates in Suffolk County who are being held on an ICE detainer in addition to being charged with a crime.

Under this new policy, once their criminal cases are resolved they will be released.

"We will still make a notification to immigration and customs but we will not hold them beyond the time it takes to process them no," said Sharkey.

Immigration groups are also pushing for the same thing to happen in Nassau. Right now there is something in Nassau called an administrative warrant, meaning someone in ICE can sign off on the warrant.

They want a judge to have to do it as well.








Related Topics:
politicsimmigrationimmigration reformlong islandlong island newssuffolk county news
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