By Patrick Young
The courts and the public have come down hard on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border. Two federal district court judges have criticized Trump's policies of separating children from their families and the failure of the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to take corrective measures ordered by the courts.
While the courts have been the scene of efforts by civil rights groups to rein in the attack on children by the Border Patrol and ICE, the street protests that began in May and culminated on June 30 saw hundreds of thousands of Americans vocally denounce the inhumanity of Trump’s acts against immigrant children.
On Long Island alone, a dozen rallies took place on June 30 in places as far flung as Greenport and Long Beach. High school students in Westbury organized a rally of 350 people with just a few days’ notice. At many of these rallies, the federal government was not the sole focus of participants. Local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE was also condemned. The sheriffs’ offices in both Nassau and Suffolk counties are cooperating with ICE and detaining immigrants with non-judicial warrants for deportation.
In Suffolk, residents were urged to call Sheriff Errol Toulon at 631-852-2200 and ask for an end to the sheriff office's cooperation with ICE. In Nassau, the sheriff operates under the authority of County Executive Laura Curran. She can be called at 516-571-3131. We know that Curran has already received many calls opposing the use of Nassau law enforcement for Trump’s deportation campaign.
In the courts, the Trump administration’s failure to follow judicial orders to reunite families led U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw to question the good faith of the Justice Department lawyers representing the administration. The exasperated judge said that the administration “either does not understand the court's orders or is acting in defiance of them.”
When county and local government’s operate in conjunction with Trump's attack on immigrant rights, they have to be held accountable for the broad illegality of those initiatives. While local activists may feel that they cannot stop Trump’s national policies, they can work to force the levels of government closest to the voters to stop cooperating with ICE and other instruments of attack on immigrants.
When the leaders of local police departments and sheriffs’ offices claim that they are only acting in support of ICE as a law enforcement agency, it is up to us to inform them that ICE is no longer functioning within the limits of the law.
The Trump administration is acting illegally and in violation of the Constitution in its immigration enforcement program. In a decision in Connecticut on Friday, U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden, in ordering the reunification of two immigrant children with their parents, wrote that “the government violated [the children’s] constitutional rights by forcibly removing them from their parents without due process of law.’’
“The government failed to provide the children with notice or a hearing, instead taking their parents, while distracting the children," Bolden wrote.
Local police should not be parties to the rampant illegality suffusing ICE’s and the Border Patrol’s attack on immigrant rights. After the exposure of the unconstitutional acts of the Department of Homeland in June and July, sheriffs, police commissioners, and county executives can no longer claim ignorance of the attack on the rights of immigrants.
Patrick Young is an attorney at the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) on Long Island and blogs for the New York Immigration Coalition. He is also Director of Legal Services at CARECEN and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University.
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