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Nassau County taken off ICE ‘sanctuary’ list

Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato in Mineola on Monday,

Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato in Mineola on Monday, June 20, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County was taken off a list of “sanctuary” jurisdictions that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had pegged as refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials seeking to deport immigrants with criminal records.

The change came with no official explanation. The Trump administration confirmed Tuesday that it had “temporarily suspended” publication of the weekly report after its accuracy was called into question.

Sheriff Michael Sposato, an appointee of County Executive Ed Mangano, has maintained that the county jail honors requests to detain immigrants, as he believes the policy “makes Nassau County safer.”

“We were never a sanctuary county,” Sposato said Tuesday.

The “Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report” is a new mandate for ICE under an executive order by President Donald Trump.

The report is meant to list so-called sanctuaries, an unofficial term for governments said to be shielding immigrants from deportation. Under the jail program, in place under the last two presidents, the federal agency identifies deportable immigrants and asks sheriffs to hold those inmates for up to 48 hours so its agents can pick them up to send them to their homelands.

The Trump list, issued twice, came under criticism as jurisdictions such as Nassau County cited errors or questioned the administration’s criteria. Suffolk County was not listed in the report although its sheriff in December adopted a policy identical to Nassau’s.

In the last list, New York City appeared among those “that do not comply . . . on a routine basis.”

The Nassau County Correctional Center since 2014 has required that ICE file detention requests either with administrative warrants, in which an enforcement officer specifies what the “probable cause” is and why an immigrant is wanted, or with warrants of removal or deportation representing a final judicial order.

Immigrant advocates in the region have called for only the judicial warrants to be honored.

New York City objected to its designation, outlining a mix of policies that prioritizes detentions for immigrants convicted of violent or serious felonies or who fall on terror watchlists.

“In the ultimate city of immigrants . . . we will work with immigration enforcement to remove serious or violent immigrants from our streets, but we will not be complicit in tearing apart the vast majority of immigrant families that present no threat to public safety whatsoever,” said Rosemary Boeglin, spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The federal agency did not comment on Nassau’s delisting, but said it would be retooling the report.

“ICE remains committed to publishing the most accurate information available regarding declined detainers across the country and continues to analyze and refine its reporting methodologies,” said a statement from Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokeswoman.

The agency published a policy update indicating that ICE will use the same forms that Nassau and Suffolk require.

Sposato said that showed his department has adopted the right policy to document reasons for detention. “I am not against cooperating with ICE and I think it’s a good cooperation and a good agreement,” he said.

Patrick Young, an immigrants’ advocate with the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, criticized the list as a botched attempt to shame local governments into falling in line with the Trump administration.

“We don’t want them to be publishing this type of a list” to force counties “into reversing agreements they have with immigrant communities” who should be able to trust their county law enforcement agencies, he said.

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