The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit on December 11, 2017 against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. The suit sought the release of Susai Francis, who was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail after he should have been released from custody. The NYCLU will argued for a writ of habeas corpus before the Second Department, Appell ate Division in Brooklyn.
The Sheriff’s Office took Mr. Francis into custody and held him for nearly two days until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) took him into custody, while the court was still reviewing the case. After ICE assumed custody of Mr. Francis on Wednesday, the Court issued an invitation for further briefing on the issue of local law enforcement complying with ICE detainer requests from the NYCLU, as well as from the offices of United States and New York State Attorneys General.
In response to calls from the NYCLU and other advocates, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office had stopped enforcing ICE detainer requests in 2014. But after President Trump’s election, the Sheriff’s Office reversed course, leading 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 New York Office of the Attorney General has long taken the position that state law does not authorize New York officers to make warrantless immigration arrests. In a 2000 letter to the attorney for Suffolk County, the Attorney General’s Office explained that state and local officers have “no authority to arrest” for an immigration law violation that imposes “just a civil penalty or deportation.” Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reaffirmed this position in guidance issued to local governments concerning ICE detainers, writing that “unlawful presence in the U.S., by itself, does not justify continued detention beyond that individual’s normal release date.” The AG’s Office advised that local law enforcement agencies should only respond to ICE detainers when they are accompanied by a judicial warrant.