Police officers and other local law enforcement officials in New York cannot arrest undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal authorities, a Brooklyn appeals court ruled Wednesday — a decision immigration advocates touted as a “critical” deterrent to the “Trump deportation machine.”
The ruling issued by the state Supreme Court’s second appellate division was based on the case of Susai Francis, an immigrant from India who was arrested on Long Island in June 2017 for driving drunk.
Francis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge, but when a judge ordered his release, he was taken back into custody by Suffolk County sheriffs who had received a detainer order from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Francis entered the country on a visitor’s visa in 1996 but never left and ICE was now looking to deport him. Francis, who’s the father of a U.S. citizen and had lived on Long Island for over two decades, was subsequently transferred to a federal detention facility in New Jersey pending his deportation.
Wednesday’s court decision concludes that the Suffolk County sheriffs who acted on Francis’ ICE detainer were breaking state law.
“While state and local law enforcement officers are indeed permitted to cooperate with federal authorities, and specifically with ICE, there is no authority for the cooperation to extend” to arrests, the court concluded.
As part of a sanctuary pledge, elected officials across the Empire State have vowed to not cooperate with federal authorities trying arrest undocumented immigrants unless it involves serious crimes, but the appellate ruling marks the first time a New York court has found that doing so in fact violates state law.
“It’s not something that can be reversed or overwritten,” Omar Jadwat, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told the Daily News. “This is what the law of the state actually says.”
Francis remains in ICE custody in New Jersey, according to the ACLU.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, the local ACLU affiliate that worked on Francis’ case, said the appellate decision ensures cops stay focused on doing their jobs instead of acting as an extension of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.
“This critical ruling makes clear that police and sheriffs in New York not only should not, but cannot do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of NYCLU. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”
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