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More than 200 police jurisdictions nationwide have ended their cooperation with automatic ICE holds, and Long Island is now one of them.
Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco this week ended his department’s cooperation with ICE holds, in which immigrants who are detained by police traffic or other minor violations are automatically detained until immigration officials can pick them up, often leading to needless deportations. The rejection of the policy in communities across America is likely to improve relationships between Latino/immigrant neighborhoods and their police — while protecting the police from liability over potentially violating immigrants’ rights. ICE holds will still be fulfilled in cases where a warrant for a serious crime has been committed.
A domino chain of counties from Oregon to Pennsylvania to Iowa and many, many other states have begun rejecting ICE holds in the last year. But Suffolk County’s move is particularly noteworthy given its ugly history with immigrants, which was highlighted in the 2012 PBS documentary “Not in Our Town.” Half a decade ago, Suffolk County was more known for Steve Levy, a County Executive who was one of the most anti-immigrant public officials in the nation; a rash of hate crimes where Latinos and immigrants were routinely beaten, pelted with rocks, and spit at; and even the murder of an Ecuadorean immigrant (whose killing was dismissed by Levy as a “one-day story”). But thanks to community outrage and years of advocacy, Suffolk has since moved light years away.
Today, immigration advocates with Make the Road New York and other groups applauded Sheriff DeMarco for his rejection of the ICE holds. As Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said:
This new policy is vital for protecting immigrants from the misguided ‘Secure Communities’ program that has so damaged our communities. 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.