Many immigrants expressed concern over the weekend that federal law enforcement officials may come into their communities and round them up for deportation after learning that more than 100 immigrants in three other states were detained and set for removal from the U.S. However, law enforcement sources refuted these claims.
In a statement released on January 4, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had “engaged in concerted, nationwide enforcement operations to take into custody and return at a greater rate adults who entered this country illegally with children,” adding that these deportations “should come as no surprise” as ICE follows its mission to pursue and detain people who are to be removed from this country.
Johnson announced that 121 people— many of whom crossed the border after May 2014 — were detained by ICE officials “primarily from Georgia, Texas and North Carolina” over the weekend. “As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal immigration,” he said.
Reports of these law enforcement actions fueled speculation that federal agents would conduct roundups in Brentwood and Huntington Station. The constant rumors of immigration officials raiding local homes and businesses — spread through social media and word-of-mouth — set a panic among areas in Long Island where Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan immigrants mostly reside. Those who lived in those communities received alerts instructing them to stay indoors, not to answer the door for ICE officials (unless they have a signed warrant), not to say anything and not to sign any documentation.
However, local law enforcement agencies dismissed those claims. The New York ICE office said “there were no operations on Long Island” last weekend. Suffolk Deputy Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said his department did not engage in any joint operations with ICE, nor did it conduct checkpoints in Brentwood or Huntington Station. Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a spokesperson with the Nassau County Police Department, added that his department has not received any requests for assistance from ICE with this matter.
Based on a memo issued by Secretary Johnson on November 20, 2014, aliens who have been issued a final order of removal on or after January 1, 2014 or who came to the U.S. on November 20, 2014 are the lowest-priority for removal from the country. They cannot be removed, however, if they qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from the U.S. government or if they are not perceived as a threat to national security or the integrity of the immigration system, according to the memo. Although the focus in the media has been on the influx of South American immigrants coming into this country illegally, the memo is also applicable to aliens from other countries.
If you are seeking help on immigration matters or possibly facing deportation, call the experienced attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP at (212) 267-2555.