Documents obtained through public records requests show local law enforcement unlawfully enabling federal immigration enforcement
NEW YORK - The New York Civil Liberties Union released an analysis of hundreds of pages of records obtained through public records requests that show U.S. Border Patrol coordinates with local law enforcement to detain immigrants across large swaths of New York, well beyond New York’s border with Canada.
“Documents we have uncovered show that local police and sheriffs are enabling Border Patrol to profile and detain immigrants far from the border, often in violation of state law,” said Melissa Pettit, NYCLU legal fellow. “Our local police and sheriffs have no business bending backward for federal immigration officials carrying out the Trump administration’s cruel deportation agenda. New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, should be able to rely on our police without fearing that a simple interaction could lead to detention, deportation, and family separation.”
As part of ongoing research into coordination between federal immigration authorities and local law enforcement, the New York Civil Liberties Union sent public records requests to both U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and local agencies. The NYCLU analysis relies on over 200 Border Patrol stops between November 2016 and March 2017 in the five counties that constitute Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector – Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence and Herkimer. It also draws from police reports between 2015 and mid-2018 that resulted in contact with federal immigration authorities in the towns and villages of Attica, Hamburg, Perry, and Johnson City, and the counties of Niagara, Ontario, and Wyoming, areas where the NYCLU had heard such coordination was occurring.
In November 2018, a state appellate court ruled in a binding, state-wide decision in the NYCLU’s lawsuit People ex rels. Wells on behalf of Francis v. DeMarco, that local law enforcement in New York does not have the authority to make civil immigration arrests and cannot detain immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities.
The NYCLU analysis shows that local police and sheriffs:
• Frequently held people for Border Patrol, despite having no legal authority to detain people for civil immigration violations,
• Held drivers and passengers who lacked licenses or who presented foreign identification so that Border Patrol could detain them,
• Called Border Patrol for translation assistance during traffic stops, resulting in drivers or passengers being detained; and
• Called Border Patrol on suspicion that individuals who appeared Latino lacked valid immigration status.
The New York Civil Liberties Union is continuing to request documents as part of its investigation into local law enforcement coordination with federal immigration officials.