Home News Local News Civil rights group sues Suffolk sheriff over ICE detentions

Civil rights group sues Suffolk sheriff over ICE detentions

The Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead. File photo: Denise Civiletti

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office today, arguing that the sheriff lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody.

The NYCLU lawsuit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a Suffolk County resident who is currently being held for ICE in the Suffolk County jail following his guilty plea to a disorderly conduct violation in local criminal court today, according to a press release from the NYCLU. The organization said it will argue for a writ of habeas corpus tomorrow morning in Brooklyn before the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, Second Department. Francis would have been released from custody following the disorderly conduct plea in the absence of the ICE hold.

The civil liberties union called the detention of Francis ”the latest in an ongoing series of immigration arrests by local law enforcement agencies that overstep their authority under state law.” Following the election of President Donald Trump, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office reinstituted a previously abandoned policy of detaining immigrants for ICE, while sanctuary cities like New York have refused to comply with immigration detainer requests.

The president has called on Congress to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with ICE detainer requests. In his Saturday address, citing the acquittal of the man charged in the killing of a San Francisco woman, blasted sanctuary cities.

“In sanctuary states and cities, innocent Americans are at the mercy of criminal aliens because state and local officials defy federal authorities and obstruct the enforcement of immigration laws,” Trump said. “It’s one more reason why Americans are so upset by sanctuary cities and open border politicians who shield criminal aliens from federal law enforcement
and all of the problems involved with the whole concept of sanctuary cities,” he said. “They’re no good.”

NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman called on local law enforcement to “reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda,” and said New York State law makes “clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding.”

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office had stopped enforcing ICE detainer requests in 2014. But after President Trump’s election, the sheriff reversed that policy. According to the NYCLU, that has led to a wave of detentions. This year the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has received more requests to detain immigrants for ICE than any other sheriff’s office in New York State, the NYCLU said.

Neither Immigration and Customs Enforcement nor the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office could immediately be reached for comment.

Francis has been a resident of Long Island for the past 21 years, the NYCLU said in the press release.

In addition to seeking Francis’ release, the suit seeks a decisive ruling on the limits of local law enforcement’s authority, the NYCLU said.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.