MS-13 Sweep in Long Island Shows the Value of Cooperative Law Enforcement

But will county officials honor ICE detainers filed against the alien gang members arrested?

By Dan Cadman on December 23, 2019

In recent years, Suffolk County, on Long Island in New York, has experienced a wave of brutal crimes attributable to the transnational criminal organization (to use the official term of art) known as Mara Salvatrucha, or "MS-13". The rise of this gang of thugs, and its undeniable connection to an uncontrolled southern border, has been well documented by the Center (see, e.g. here, here, and here).

Now prosecutors and police authorities have announced a major sweep in the county that netted nearly 100 suspects affiliated with MS-13, who were charged with various violent crimes, drug trafficking crimes, and weapons crimes. Drugs, guns, machetes, and a lot of money were also seized.

The investigation was conducted by Suffolk County police with the cooperation of several federal agencies, not least of which was Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), along with the FBI and DEA. This is the value of interagency law enforcement cooperation, and the operation puts the lie to the shameless nonsense so often spouted by sanctuary apologists when they assert that it is in the interest of "community relations" when police and prosecutors shut out ICE and deny them information and access to alien criminals. No community is well served when police deliberately create their own revolving-door justice system that keeps returning seasoned criminals to the communities on which they prey.

Sanctuary advocates also claim that it's necessary to do this because else ICE is "commandeering" their resources in violation of the Tenth Amendment's guarantee of the sovereign rights of states. That's a pretty negligible fig leaf to try and dress up what, essentially, is their belief that they have the right to substitute their judgment for that of the Congress in dictating the shape and direction of federal immigration policies. Is it really such a drain on state and local resources to maintain a record of detainers filed and allow ICE agents to take alien criminals off their hands when ready for release? I should think that, in fact, it's a very real cost savings to local police, prosecutors, and courts in the amount of time and effort saved by not having to repeatedly arrest and charge the same gangbangers over and over for horrendous crimes.

But Suffolk County doesn't exist in a political vacuum; the governor and legislators of the state have made known their "progressive" views in putting forward policies and rules that stymie ICE and other immigration agencies at every turn — including a new law forbidding agencies of the state and local subdivisions from sharing any information whatever about driver's licenses, even as the state now obliges officials to issue those licenses to illegal aliens. The governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, has also exercised his commutation and pardon powers with frightening regularity with the singular purpose of aiding convicted criminal aliens to evade deportation from the United States.

What's more, as ICE itself has noted, "New York State policy severely limits state and local law enforcement cooperation with ICE and requires a judicial warrant to honor most ICE detainers". As I and several of my colleagues have noted, there is no such thing as a judicial warrant in civil removal proceedings. Federal law provides instead that an immigration warrant may be issued by the secretary of Homeland Security. There are sound reasons for this statutory policy, including the recognition that requiring judicial warrants in routine immigration removal proceedings would overwhelm and quickly paralyze the federal judiciary.

State and local officials who institute these policies are hypocrites who know there is no such thing as a judicial warrant, but use it as a phony justification for their refusal to cooperate. It also raises the question of why, then, they are perfectly willing to accept detainers issued by non-judicial state administrative officials such as parole boards. How do they square that circle? They can't. They just hope nobody notices the hypocrisy.

But to end back where we began: Even though Suffolk County doesn't show up in any lists as a "sanctuary jurisdiction", the acid test will soon be upon us. How will county authorities deal with the multiplicity of ICE detainers that must inevitably be filed against many of the 96 alien suspects just taken into custody, thanks in very large measure to the county's ability to "commandeer" federal resources in this cooperative law enforcement endeavor?

Will county authorities honor them or, instead, ignore them and let these hardened criminals go right back into the community to try and silence, intimidate, or even murder witnesses and informants prior to trial, if-and-when they make bond? If that happens — and I hope earnestly that it does not — then it's time to call out Suffolk County, and perhaps oblige federal authorities to ask whether their own cooperation policies need a rethinking, too.