Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have apprehended 39 undocumented immigrants from across Long Island who face criminal charges and must be deported. One of them was a 46-year-old Salvadoran man living in Elmont who was charged with cocaine possession.
ICE officials did not release the names of any of the 39 who were taken into custody.
The Nassau County Police Department's acting commissioner, Thomas Krumpter, said that ICE operates on its own to apprehend undocumented immigrants, noting that Nassau does not assist ICE in its roundups.
"We do not have anybody cross-designated to assist ICE," Kumpter said at a panel discussion in Elmont on Feb. 25. "Here in Nassau County, our policy is that we never inquire about the citizenship status of anyone. Residents of Nassau County will be protected and not made to feel they're being persecuted."
Concern is mounting in local immigrant communities whether there will be more widespread apprehension of undocumented immigrants. As a result, Krumpter said, NCPD is planning three town hall meetings to address President Trump's executive order to deport illegal immigrants with criminal histories.
The first meeting will be held at the Town of North Hempstead's Yes We Can Center in Westbury on March 2, and the second will be on March 9 in Uniondale. A third forum will be held in Elmont, with details to follow.
Krumpter said that government must balance the rights of law-abiding residents, documented and undocumented, against the need for public safety. "Our number one focus is to protect the safety of those living and visiting in Nassau County," he said.
Law enforcement officials across the country have said that is a difficult balance to maintain. Mass deportations, they say, could send many undocumented immigrants into hiding and make them fearful to speak with authorities.
On Feb. 13, Department of Homeland Security Director John Kelly said that, nationwide, ICE had arrested 680 people "who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation's immigration system." Among them were the 39 from Long Island.
"President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws," Kelly said, "with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations, or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally."
In Nassau County, 20 of the 39 immigrants in custody face serious criminal charges, according to ICE officials. Ten were charged with driving under the influence, four with sexual assault, three with rape, two with sexual assault of a victim under age 11 and one with child fondling. It was unclear what charges the other 19 might face.
Nationwide, about 500 of the 680 apprehended immigrants had criminal convictions, according to federal officials.
On Feb. 23, during a short trip to Mexico, Kelly insisted that there would be no "mass deportations," criticizing the media for characterizing the recent apprehensions as such.
"No-- repeat, no-- use of military force in immigration operations. None," he said. "At least half of you try to get that right, because it continually comes up in the reporting."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York who is the Senate's minority leader, noted that some of the crimes were less severe, including traffic violations and shoplifting.
"Reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted non-violent immigrant families over the past week are deeply disturbing," Schumer wrote in an email. "Undocumented immigrants live in fear, and they are confused and scared. I am troubled by the lack of transparency and potential due process violations surrounding ICE's most recent enforcement actions. That is why I'm calling on ICE to release information about the location of the raids and details of the people who were arrested."
Schumer added that targeting immigrant families who came to the U.S. to give their children better lives, instead of focusing on those who have committed and been convicted of violent crimes, was a waste of limited resources, undermining law enforcement in communities across the country.
"I have always supported smart immigration enforcement that helps to keep our country safe, but raids targeting law-abiding immigrants and treating those with traffic violations the same as murderers and robbers will only achieve the opposite," he said.