Suit Fails to End Immigration Detainment

N.Y.C.L.U. takes case to the Appellate Division

The New York Civil Liberties Union argued unsuccessfully in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on Tuesday for the release of a man being held by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department on a detainment request from Immigration and Enforcement. 

The man, Susai Manickam Francis, 55, originally from India, had been living in Northport. He has been arrested numerous times this year, most recently on Nov. 28 by Suffolk County police on a charge of disorderly conduct, a violation. Unable to make bail, he was taken to Nassau County, where he pleaded guilty on Dec. 4 to an outstanding misdemeanor charge of aggravated drunken driving, and then returned to Suffolk County.

According to his N.Y.C.L.U. attorney, Jordan Walls, Mr. Francis was taken to court in Central Islip on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was sentenced to time served. However, instead of being released, he was transferred to county jail in Riverside, honoring a detainment request made by ICE the day after he en tered his guilty plea in Nassau. Such requests ask that prisoners be kept in custody to allow time for ICE to act. To Mr. Walls this violates New York State and federal law governing arrests.

Mr. Walls was hopeful on Tuesday afternoon, on his client’s behalf, that the court would hand down its decision that day, and that Mr. Francis would be released. However, the court did not issue a ruling, and Mr. Francis was picked up by ICE agents yesterday morning. It is not immediately known which detention center he was taken to. 

Michael Sharkey, the chief of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, defended the department’s dealings with detainers. He said Tuesday that the sheriffs are acting “based on the current Suffolk County attorney’s office’s legal opinion.”

“My position on detainers is that they are unconstitutional, and should not be enforced,” Sandra Melendez, an East Hampton-based attorney whose office handles both criminal and immigration law, said yesterday. Referring to bail or bond, she said, “Many of my clients that get picked up on minor charges have not been able to clear their criminal case, because once they pay, ICE takes them. They never bring them back.” It has been Ms. Melendez’s experience that when a defendant is deported, the bond or bail is not exonerated.

While it is apparently too late to help Mr. Francis, N.Y.C.L.U. is hopeful that when a decision is handed down by the Appellate Division on Mr. Francis’s case, the ruling can be used to change the county’s procedures regarding detainers, according to Naomi Dann, media relations officer for N.Y.C.L.U. 

“Susai Manickam Francis, an Indian national, unlawfully present in the United States, is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings,” Rachael Yong Yow, a public affairs officer for ICE, said in a statement yesterday.