ICE Gets a Cease-and-Desist Letter From New York's Governor

Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday the state will not let federal immigration agents onto state property without a judicial warrant or order.

By Chelsia Rose Marcius and Kenneth Lovett

Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday the state will not let federal immigration agents onto state property without a judicial warrant or order.

Cuomo, in what he called a cease-and-desist letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan, expressed dismay over a recent spate of raids by federal agents that he called "reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions."

The actions pose "significant legal and public safety concerns" that ultimately are "eroding trust in the foundations of our communities, threatening the sanctity of our public institutions, and unnecessarily stoking terror among law-abiding residents under the guise of promoting homeland security and public safety," Cuomo wrote.

Cuomo warned of legal action should the "pattern of conduct and blatant unconstitutional violations committed by both agents in the field and regional leadership" continue.

"We believe ICE is violating the law," he said at a New York City press conference. "We're going to put them on notice today that, if they continue, the state will sue."

"These are unconstitutional activities," he told reporters. "ICE is endangering public safety by not notifying local law enforcement (of an arrest they're about to carry out)."

An ICE spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal immigration officers recently rounded up 225 people during a sweeping six-day raid in the metropolitan area.

In addition, agents arrested a male defendant at State Island Criminal Court.

Cuomo in his letter said ICE agents also have gone to homes on Staten Island seeking one person but arresting others when that individual was not there. Because they are in plain clothes, Cuomo said, many in the community believe them to be local law enforcement, with whom they are now afraid to deal.

Cuomo also said the raids are impacting farms, which often employ immigrants. He cited an upstate case in which plain-clothes ICE agents walked on to a farm without a warrant and aggressively questioned a worker by pushing him up against a window. When the farmer saw what was going on and tried to film the incident, the agents handcuffed the farm owner and threw his phone to the ground.

Cuomo said those who disagree with ICE have also been targeted.

"As such, you must cease and desist in this pattern of conduct immediately," Cuomo wrote. "If you fail to do so, I will explore and pursue all available legal recourse, taking any such action that is necessary to protect the rights and safety of all New Yorkers."

Cuomo at the press conference said some of those actions include assembling a "state-wide" network of "rapid response teams" that consists of "legal counsel" who could quickly dispatch to a crisis situation.

The governor, as he often has done in recent months, blamed President Trump for the surge. He said Trump's rhetoric is "driving abusive practices" by ICE.

"This is about politics," Cuomo said. "We have a president who campaigned on an anti-Christian agenda, (that) illegal immigrants are the problem for the middle class... (and) if we deport all of these illegal immigrants and then we put up a wall, America will be great again."

"I think ICE is responding to this...political rhetoric."

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Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.