Nassau County landed on a new list of “sanctuary” jurisdictions that failed to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in detaining inmates wanted for deportation, the agency said this week.
But Nassau County Sheriff Michael Sposato said the county, which runs the Nassau County Correctional Center, has been cooperating with ICE since 2014 in honoring requests to hold immigrants. Others who track immigration enforcement also are questioning the designation.
The Declined Detainer Outcome Report covers only the seven-day period between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3. The federal agency issued the document on Monday as it carried out a mandate, under one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders, to highlight and track on a weekly basis “sanctuary cities” — an unofficial term for localities shielding from enforcement immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally or are otherwise subject to deportation.
Nassau County ranked second in the nation for the number of detention requests that week, with 38 cases filed, but the document does not specify how many the county rejected. The sheriff, who was appointed by County Executive Edward Mangano, said his jail routinely holds and hands off wanted immigrants to the agency and that it has complied with those requests.
“Basically, it was a mistake that we were on that list,” Sposato said. “We were one of the first to do this” and hold inmates for immigration enforcement purposes.
“We actually have a very good system” that includes allowing access to ICE personnel to computerized jail records, he said.
Sposato said he had been told by an ICE representative that Nassau will be dropped from the list, but the agency did not confirm that assertion this week. He said the county abides by a State Supreme Court order saying the county can honor the ICE nonjudicial requests known as “detainers.” It holds inmates for two days when the federal agency files the paperwork. “We lodge them. We hold them. They have 48 hours” to pick up inmates, Sposato said.
In a statement issued Wednesday, ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez told Newsday that the counties in the report “are jurisdictions that have — in the past — publicly expressed unwillingness to fully comply” with detainers “or have not provided ICE with sufficient time to allow for the safe transfer of a detainee.”
Franklin County, in upstate New York, also was placed on the list of counties that ICE deems to not be cooperating. The report included four instances in New York City and one in Westchester County in which immigrants sought for deportation were released from correctional facilities. Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco adopted in December the same Nassau policy, accepting administrative requests for detention. Suffolk was not placed on the list.
The report itself appears to be a work in progress. An ICE official said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is its overseeing agency, will continue to evaluate “the appropriate criteria” to place jurisdictions in the report.
The Trump administration previously has threatened to withhold funding from localities that don’t cooperate with immigration enforcement efforts.
Immigrant advocates have opposed the jail deportation program, which started under the presidency of George W. Bush and was modified and continued under Barack Obama. The advocates contend that sheriffs should solely honor warrants from judges, not those produced by the agency. They say that cooperation with federal immigration agents hinders the work of local law enforcement, as immigrants fearing deportation avoid police.
“This is an attempt by the federal government to interfere in local policing by essentially trying to publicly shame jurisdictions,” said Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center, an immigrant advocacy group in Hempstead and Brentwood.
Young called it “a ludicrous report,” since Nassau has “a mixed policy” in which it may not ask immigrants about their status but “they do honor the detainer” for those charged with crimes.
Jessica Vaughan, policy director with the Center for Immigration Studies, a group in Washington, D.C., that favors increased enforcement, said the records she keeps on detentions show Nassau is “for the most part routinely cooperating with ICE.”
Vaughan believes that, as the report continues to be refined, “over time this is going to document the real scale of the impact of the sanctuary policies” criticized by the Trump administration. “It’s a tool that the public can use” to track cooperation, she said.