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Nassau Executive Laura Curran needs to get it right

ICE misstep and others are bad for county governance

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran now says the best place to put offices for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents working in the county is on the grounds of the Nassau University Medical Center. The right time for Curran to choose that plan would have been before the county demanded that ICE agents vacate their trailer at the county jail in East Meadow, adjacent to the NUMC campus.

One year into her term, Curran often has gotten her order of operations wrong. She seems to make a gut decision and then execute it. She is then bombarded with input from various constituencies that causes her to shift course. She needs to reverse that process and seek advice from experienced people at the outset.

In November, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled that the Suffolk County Correctional Facility should not have held Susai Francis, an immigrant from India here illegally, after he was sentenced to time served on a disorderly conduct charge. Francis was held for ICE for being in the United States without permission, a civil offense, but not a crime. The court ruled that the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office had no legal right to hold Francis on a civil federal warrant.

Days later, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department wrote to ICE that the court ruling “negates the need for your presence at the county jail.” County officials have said factors in the decision included pressure from immigrant and civil rights groups, a desire to follow the court decision, and a belief that getting the ICE trailer off jail grounds could build trust of police in immigrant communities.

It was a move made for optics, but the optics blew up. Republican county legislators and leaders of Nassau police and corrections unions accused Curran of putting political correctness ahead of public safety. The fuss prompted President Donald Trump to take a shot at “radical Democrats” on Long Island who don’t want ICE. All exaggerated the impact of the move to score their political points, but Curran gave them the opening. The ICE field office director wrote to Curran that the court decision was “not so far-reaching that it should be a cause for elimination of cooperative efforts that have been forged and burnished over decades.” Curran eventually said the county would continue to work with ICE beyond what the court decision banned, but the damage had been done.

This is not Curran’s first retreat. In September, she announced the property assessment rate would drop to 0.10, allowing the county to more quickly restore fairness in Nassau’s disastrous tax roll, after previously saying the rate would be kept at 0.25. That’s the best possible plan arrived at in the worst possible way.

In her 2017 campaign, she said she’d reopen two police precincts, but then said in October that the county did not have the money or staff to do so. In November, Curran reversed herself and said she’d reopen them.

That’s just not good process.

Assuming Nassau keeps cooperating with ICE when appropriate, moving agents from the jail grounds to NUMC probably doesn’t do much beyond fueling a political firestorm. And that could have been avoided if Curran had gotten input, developed a plan, determined a new location and promised to continue cooperating with ICE before kicking the agents off the jail grounds.The editorial board

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