By Christina Carrega
A higher court unanimously ruled on Wednesday that NYPD officers and other state law enforcement officials are not allowed to assist with arresting undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal investigators.
The decision that was written by the Second Department Appellate Division’s Judge Alan D. Scheinkman was based on the June 2017 arrest of Susai Francis in Nassau County, L.I. for DUI and driving an uninsured vehicle.
Upon his arrest, Francis was fingerprinted by police which, in turn, were submitted to a federal national database that revealed he was a citizen from Indian who remained in the country on an expired B2 visitor visa since 1996.
Subsequently, a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officer issued a detainer and arrest warrant for Francis. The detainer requested for Nassau County’s Police Department to notify ICE two days in advance of Francis release to turn over to them for deportation.
On Dec. 4, 2017, Francis pleaded guilty and was transferred to Suffolk County to handle a separate criminal matter. In December 2016, Suffolk County revised their ICE detainer policy to rewrite an inmate’s paperwork to show they are no longer in state custody, but federal.
“Once the paperwork is ‘re-written,’ the Sheriff’s Office regards the inmate as being in the custody of ICE and places the inmate in jail cells at the Riverhead facility that are rented by ICE from the Sheriff,” the decision explained.
Oral arguments from Francis’ attorney and the petitioner to the higher court, Jordan Wells with the New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, were to no avail and he was taken into ICE custody.
This proceeding and Francis’ detention was deemed unlawful by Judges Scheinkman, P.J. Ruth C. Balkin, John M. Leventhal and Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix.
Wells charged that ICE made over 400 detainer request in Suffolk County and over 350 in Nassau County in the first 10 months of 2017.
“It is evident that this issue is likely to reoccur. As the petitioner points out, and the Sheriff does not refute, nearly 800 detainers were submitted by ICE to the Nassau and Suffolk County Sheriff’s offices during 2017.
Though it’s not clear whether this amount of detainer applications were made with the Second Department’s jurisdiction — Brooklyn, Queens, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Richmond, Rockland and Westchester Counties — “it is readily apparent that hundreds of inmates in just two counties within this Department may well face the application of the policy each year,” according to the decision.
The chain of custody for Francis was unlawful. “Francis was entitled to release after being sentenced to time served on his state charges and, but for the ICE detainer and arrest warrant, would have been discharged from custody directly from the courthouse,” according to the decision.
As of January, Francis, 56, is still in ICE custody at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, pending removal proceedings in Immigration Court, according to the decision.