Lawsuit alleges Nassau PD improperly holds immigrants for ICE

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WOODBURY -

A lawsuit alleges that the Nassau County Police Department is breaking the law by holding immigrants in custody for federal authorities after they've been arrested.

Attorneys with the Central American Refugee Center and the Hofstra Law Clinic have filed the lawsuit against the county and the police department. At issue is a Nassau County administrative order from 2007 that tells Nassau police to notify ICE after the arrest of any non-citizen -- those who are here legally and illegally.

Attorney Elise Damas says state law is broken if Nassau police then continue to hold the immigrant in custody at ICE's request. It's known as an "ice detainer." 

"The fact is, the minute Jane Doe's case is dismissed, the minute Jane Doe pays her fine, she should be released," Damas says. "Continuing to hold her constitutes a re-arrest, which is illegal under New York state law."

Over the summer, immigrant advocates rallied outside Nassau police headquarters, arguing that police had unfairly reported a Hempstead man to ICE after a traffic stop, and the man was deported. Damas says it was that case that brought the issue to their attention.

In a statement, a Nassau police spokesman said, "Regardless of a person's legal status, all persons in Nassau County are required to abide by the local, state and federal laws currently in effect. The Nassau County Police Department will not inquire into any person's immigration status unless they are arrested for a crime. This includes the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, and anyone who calls the police seeking assistance."

But the statement did not address the specific accusation that police are breaking the law by holding someone in custody for ICE.

The immigration attorneys say the Suffolk Police Department has a very similar policy, but Suffolk is not named in this lawsuit, and the department did not respond.

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