Local civil liberty and immigration advocacy groups held a news conference Thursday in Mineola to oppose Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's plan to open an ICE office at Nassau University Medical Center. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday stood by her decision to relocate U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from the county jail to the grounds of the public hospital in East Meadow, despite pushback from immigation advocates who said the move would deter an underserved population from accessing health care because they fear arrests.

Nassau is committed to protecting all residents who live in the county, Curran said at a news conference hours after dozens of protesters gathered in the lobby of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to air their complaints.

“I will not allow anything or anyone to interfere with access to medical care at the hospital,” she said, referring to Nassau University Medical Center, which is located next to the county jail. “Anything to the contrary, and we will take immediate action.”

The building, where six officials from ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations will set up shop, is in the northwest corner of NUMC’s grounds, far from the hospital’s main entrances, Curran said.

“Patients do not go back there,” she said. “Visitors do not go back there.”

The Curran administration asked ICE officials to vacate office space at the Correctional Center in East Meadow by Jan. 31. The move, Curran said, was prompted by a November ruling issued by the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, which found that local and state law enforcement cannot arrest or detain immigrants who are in the country illegally — who would otherwise be released — on an ICE warrant for deportation purposes.

In 2017, ICE made nearly 800 requests to sheriffs in Nassau and Suffolk counties to detain inmates for deportation, according to court records.

Nassau County is moving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents...

Nassau County is moving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from a trailer at the county jail to the grounds of the public hospital in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday / Gustavo Pabón

But Curran changed course Tuesday and announced ICE’s new location, hours after nearly 100 law enforcement union officials gathered in Mineola to protest her decision to evict the federal agents, citing concerns that the move will cause a spike in gang violence.

No one is happy with Curran’s decision.

On Thursday, protesters, some held signs that said, “ICE @NUMC makes us sick” and “Building trust with communities is tough on crime,” urged Curran to reconsider her decision to relocate ICE to the county's only public hospital.

Angela Papalia, a social worker with Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program, was among dozens of people who showed up to voice their displeasure.

“We have concerns that women, children and families will not receive lifesaving care due to the fear that has arisen by the news that was released yesterday,” Papalia said.

Nassau Police Benevolent Association president James McDermott on Thursday said the jail is a secured facility, which makes it a safer place for ICE agents to work and also allows them to collect intelligence.

“They can actually observe inmates. They can sit there and watch inmates while they are in the yard. They can readily access inmates for interviews,” McDermott said.

If the trailer is too close to the jail’s visitor entrance, McDermot said Curran could've moved it to another location within the jail complex.

“She was kicking ICE out of Nassau County,” McDermott said. “Now she’s scrambling because she got pushback from everyone.”

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