New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a cease-and-desist letter to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Wednesday, accusing the agency of illegal and “aggressive” tactics in recent immigration raids in New York.
“Your agency’s aggressive claims of upholding the rule of law belie the fact that the pattern of conduct and blatant constitutional violations committed by both agents in the field and regional leadership actually reflect a readiness to sink to lawlessness,” Cuomo wrote in his letter.
He cited instances of this, including the complaint of a dairy farmer, John Collins, who claimed ICE raided his New York farm and arrested an employee of his without showing him a warrant and handcuffed him when he attempted to film them.
At a news conference Wednesday, Cuomo said that if ICE agents continue making arrests this way, “the state will sue them, period.”
He said he believed that the agents' conduct is fueled by the rhetoric of the Trump administration.
“I believe ICE has been politicized, if not directly then indirectly in that their aggressive tactics, aggressive behavior — unconstitutional, illegal behavior — is being fueled by the political rhetoric of the administration,” Cuomo said.
“When you politicize law enforcement, now you are in a very bad place, and you are over the line,” he emphasized. “And whether that happens directly because [agents] are being told, or indirectly because they believe they’re following the spirit and the tone of the administration, that is a frightening place, and that is un-American.”
As The Washington Post noted, the legal force of a cease-and-desist letter from a state governor to a government agency is unclear.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan called Cuomo's remarks "an insult to ICE's sworn law enforcement officers who conduct their lawful mission professionally and with integrity."
Homan accused Cuomo of “grandstanding,” emphasizing that “ICE cannot and will not cease and desist from fulfilling our agency’s congressionally mandated mission of enforcing federal law.
“Many of these arrests were conducted at large in the community, which ICE is increasingly forced to do due to sanctuary policies in the state that prevent us from taking custody of criminal aliens in the secure confines of a jail," he added. "[Cuomo] supports these policies at the expense of the safety of the very same communities he took an oath to protect."
As to the examples in Cuomo’s letter, Homan pointed out that those arrested had felony convictions unrelated to their immigration violations.
He identified the Collins’s farm employee as a "criminal alien" named Marcial DeLeon-Aguilar, who, he said,"is a three-time prior deportee who has felony criminal convictions for reckless aggravated assault and illegal re-entry -- also a felony."
Cuomo's letter comes just weeks after he faced criticism for declaring, inaccurately, in a speech,"you want to deport an undocumented person, start with me because I’m an undocumented person.”