On Thin Ice

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A late development in this story occurred during press time. Curran and ICE personnel have to come to an agreement to keep agents at their current trailer pending their proposal for a new trailer away from the jail’s visitors’ center.

In a matter of days, six agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), who were ordered out of the Nassau County Correctional Center by County Executive Laura Curran, will be leaving

their trailer that is located at the correctional center on Jan. 31, something that local law enforcement representatives are not too happy about.

Outside the PBA’s office was this truck with a message on it to the county executive.
(Photos by Anthony Murray)

In response to Curran’s expulsion, members of local law enforcement spoke out urging Curran to reconsider her decision at a press conference that was held at the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association (PBA) headquarters in Mineola last week.

“We’re here because of County Executive Laura Curran’s decision to force ICE agents off the Nassau County Jail property,” said PBA president James McDermott. “I hope that she hears our plea and reconsiders her decision.”

Urging the significance of having ICE agents on county jail property, McDermott referenced an April 2018 incident, when members of MS-13 made threats to kill a police officer in the Hempstead area.

“We called out to that department to take proper measures to protect our police officers, which they did,” said McDermott. “We were able to prepare for that threat through intelligence and information that was derived from the law enforcement community. When I say the law enforcement community, it’s not just Nassau County police officers…it’s ICE agents that work at the jail who interview these gang members on an everyday basis and get information. A police officer’s life was saved and possibly members of the public also.”

In November 2018, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal for ICE to hold prisoners who would otherwise be released.

“The court issued a decision last November that said we are not allowed to further detain inmates to wait for an ICE pick up,” said Curran, who did an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show about the issue. “I consulted my county attorney to see what that means for us here in Nassau County and how we operate. I consulted the police commissioner and the sheriff; the police commissioner assured me that nothing in this decision will change how the police work with our federal partners including ICE. We will continue to work with our federal partners including ICE.”

According to Curran, there is one exception, however.

“This decision means that we can no longer detain inmates based on an ICE detainer,” said Curran. “That constitutes a second arrest. It’s illegal and we won’t be party to that.”

“The court ruling was what it was. There’s no reason to take ICE off the premise,” said McDermott, who said the move seemed like a political decision. “As a matter of fact in Suffolk County they’re doing the exact opposite. They’re keeping them [agents] on their Yaphank premise out there.”

According to Curran, the reason why the jail wasn’t working for ICE agents was because of the trailer’s position right outside the visitor’s entrance of the jail.

“It had a real chilling effect on our immigrant community,” said Curran. “I think it caused a lot of fear in our immigrant community.”

However, Curran is moving those agents to a different part of the Nassau University Medical Center campus, which would be much more discreet.

“Our hospital campus is many acres,” said Curran. “This office where these field officers will be is way in the back and it has its own entrance. There are no patient or visitors that ever go back there. There will be no intermingling whatsoever.”

“Violent gangs such as MS-13 are terrorizing our communities, especially our children and young teenagers as these gangs attempt to recruit them at their schools,” said John Wighaus, president of the Nassau County Detective’s Association. “ICE agents gather, disseminate information and forward intelligence to our gang squad detectives and our law enforcement officers. The county executive has to reverse her decision to remove ICE from the Nassau County Correctional Facility for the safety of our children and the residents of Nassau County.”

According to president of the Nassau County Correctional Officers Benevolent Association (COBA), Brian Sullivan, there are 250 known and identifiable gang members in the Nassau County Correctional Facility.

“This has never been a police issue,” said Curran. “No police procedures are changing whatsoever. I believe the union is exploiting the divisive rhetoric that is coming out of Washington and scoring cheap points that way.”

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