by Alexandria Pappas
September 29, 2014 – A revolutionary new policy is being implemented in Suffolk County, Long Island by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco. The policy will require federal officials to obtain a warrant from a judge in order to hold undocumented persons solely on immigration violations in Suffolk County jails.
Previously, undocumented persons whose criminal cases were resolved, were held in Suffolk County jails until ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) could pick them up to be placed in ICE federal detention.
Suffolk County Sherriff DeMarco identified that this old policy was more of a request than a mandate from the federal government, and as such, took action to implement a new policy that would protect the county from civil rights lawsuits and put the taxpayers’ funds to finer use. Outside of New York City, Suffolk County has been the state’s top deporting county, responsible for 15% of New York’s total deportations since 2011. However, Sheriff DeMarco has decided this must change.
Now, Suffolk County jails will no longer hold undocumented persons after the resolution of their criminal case unless a judge issues a warrant to hold them in custody. In other words, undocumented persons must be formally charged with a crime or they will not be held in Suffolk County jails.
What this means for Suffolk County communities is vital – increased safety for all. This policy will likely generate greater trust between local law enforcement and local communities on Long Island since the undocumented population will no longer fear being arrested on immigration violations for reporting incidents of crime to the police. This policy also makes a bold statement that Suffolk County’s detaining of undocumented persons during this “limbo period” is a civil rights violation and they will no longer be playing a part in the federal government’s illegitimate scheme.
For Safe Passage and its partners, this policy is pivotal in our continuing efforts for immigration protection. We hope to see this policy implemented throughout all of New York State (and the country!) sooner than later. As we all know, the time is NOW!