Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency must leave a trailer stationed at the Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow by Jan. 31, said County Executive Laura Curran on Jan. 15. However, after pressure from Republicans and Union representatives, she announced on Jan. 22 that ICE will remain nearby near the jail, but relocate to Nassau University Medical Center.
The move follows a decision made by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in November that ruled that it is illegal for local police to hold inmates longer than their sentence based on a civil immigration detainer.
“The law is the law, and we will follow it,” Curran said. “Removing ICE from the trailer gives us the opportunity to eliminate confusion in the immigrant community and demonstrate that inmates are there for crimes. This strengthens our community-policing model.”
Amid Curran’s announcement on Jan. 15, Nassau County Republicans held a news conference at which they urged her to delay the removal. “Having ICE at the correctional facility is a benefit to the officers who work there, as well as the surrounding community,” said Legislator Thomas McKevitt, a Republican from East Meadow. “They are able to provide crucial information and intelligence, which benefits public safety.”
Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott, along with a number first responders and residents met at the NCPBA office in Mineola a week later to publicly plea to Curran to stop the “eviction,” as McDermont called it.
The New York State Supreme Court ruling does not prohibit cooperation or information sharing between police and ICE, or access to the jail by ICE, as long as inmates are not held after they’re otherwise free to go.
Curran had not initially referenced an alternate space for ICE officials to go after the move. On Jan. 22, she announced her decision to relocate them to NUMC as a part of a “comprehensive strategy from Nassau law enforcement officials to strengthen the trust with the immigrant communities while complying with the law,” said a representative from her office.
Curran and Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said they want ICE to perform the function of removing and deporting criminal immigrants who participate in illegal gang and gang-related activities throughout the County.
According to McDermont, “The County Executive’s backtracking is an admission of the terrible error she made. Her decision jeopardized public safety and hindered the fight against MS-13 and other gangs.”
The day after Curran announced her decision, President Donald Trump alluded to it at a roundtable and, although not mentioning Laura Curran or Nassau County by name, criticized Long Island’s “really radical Democrats” for moving ICE officials off jail property.
“I see in Long Island they don't want ICE,” he said. “The radical Democrats don't want ICE there because they're too good, they're doing too good a job . . . they don't want them doing anything to disturb MS-13.”
McDermott said that he agreed with the president’s statement and that moving ICE was interfering with the federal agency’s ability to communicate with local police in the fight against MS-13. “Anything else but complete cooperation puts Long Island lives at risk," he said.
Curran said the decision to move ICE to the NCUM is an effort to show the community that the NCPD will not focus on deportations and should feel safe about reporting crimes.
Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center, said immigrants believe the police is tied to immigration and initially agreed that the separation would help create better relations.
However, Young said the move to the hospital was not a fair compromise and called it “an absolute disgrace.”
“It’s disgusting. ICE will be where immigrants receive medical help,” Young said of ICE’s new base. “Immigrants will be afraid to go to the ‘ICE hospital.’ It’s, [the decision], a betrayal to the immigrant community.”
Despite Young’s fears, the new ICE location is a stand-alone building separate from the hospital adjacent to the Correctional Center, according to officials.
“I want to make clear that ICE agents will not be allowed into the hospital building,” said George Tsunis Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Nassau University Medical Center. “The privacy, health, and welfare of our patients are of paramount importance. Every single patient who needs medical care can continue to come to NUMC without fear.”