Suffolk County sheriff officials, trying to ease concerns the county jail could house hundreds of federal immigration detainees, told county lawmakers Thursday they so far have held only one to three such detainees at a time and only those already arrested on local crime.
The presentation to the Public Safety Committee aimed to explain a new agreement signed in December. A Newsday story said the pact could permit the housing of as many as 150 federal prisoners at a time facing deportation and bring in as much as $900,000 a month in revenue for the county.
Michael Sharkey, chief deputy sheriff, said Suffolk does not have room to house 150 federal detainees at once, and that number was included by federal officials to cap their maximum expense.
Sharkey said that since the new agreement was signed, the county has recouped about $14,000 a month in reimbursement for one to three prisoners a day. ICE takes prisoners within 48 hours, he said.
Sharkey emphasized that Suffolk is reimbursed only for prisoners already charged with a local crime and who already have appeared before a Suffolk judge.
The new agreement updated an existing pact with the federal government, raising county reimbursement from $120 to $200 a day for holding county prisoners sought by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under administrative warrants, Sharkey said.
County legislators, who have authority over the use of county property, asked sheriff’s officials to testify, after the new agreement came to light.
The agreement’s existence surfaced in filings from federal and local officials in response to lawsuits challenging the legality and constitutionality of Suffolk’s earlier dealings with detained immigrants, Newsday reported.
The agreement was signed by former Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, who has been seeking a job with the Trump administration, before he left office in January.
County Attorney Dennis Brown said his office is still researching whether the agreement should have come to county lawmakers for approval.
Afterward, Anita Halasz of Long Island Jobs with Justice, which is active on the issue, said she accepts the sheriff’s numbers, “but it does not calm the community’s fears. The system is still stacked against them.”