New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “grandstanding” over immigration enforcement, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan.
Homan said Cuomo’s comments about ICE, in a cease and desist letter he sent to the agency on April 25, were “inaccurate and an insult.”
Cuomo claims that recent enforcement actions by ICE agents in New York “raise significant legal and public safety concerns” and called the conduct of ICE agents involved in recent arrests “egregious and unconstitutional.”
The letter demands the immediate stop of ICE’s “reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions,” or else Cuomo will take legal action.
ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan called the governor’s comments “inaccurate and an insult.”
“ICE cannot and will not cease and desist from fulfilling our agency’s congressionally mandated mission of enforcing federal law,” Homan said in a statement on April 25.
In his letter, Cuomo brought up the arrest of Marcial DeLeon-Aguilar, an illegal alien from Guatemala, who has been deported three times and has felony criminal convictions for both reckless aggravated assault and illegal re-entry, according to ICE records.
DeLeon-Aguilar was arrested on the dairy farm where he was working in Rome, New York, on April 18.
Cuomo accuses the arresting ICE agents of unconstitutional behavior, saying the agents entered private land without a warrant, did not identify themselves, and assaulted DeLeon-Aguilar.
The court document, however, paints a different picture. It says the ICE agents entered a publicly accessible door by the farm’s milking parlor to find the owner of the farm. The agents spotted DeLeon-Aguilar, identified themselves as ICE officers, and asked to speak with his employer.
“At this time, DeLeon-Aguilar attempted to flee, at which time he was physically restrained by [an agent],” the criminal complaint reads.
Homan defended his agents, saying they acted professionally and within their legal authority under federal immigration law.
“ICE will continue to protect New York communities against public safety and national security threats, and it is false and offensive for the governor to say otherwise,” he said.
An official at ICE confirmed that all arrests for immigration violations would at least have an administrative warrant.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Cuomo’s actions are “shocking.”
“He seems to be in complete denial of the need for immigration enforcement, the benefits it provides, and even the facts of the cases that he is objecting to,” Vaughan said.
She said DeLeon-Aguilar is a felon and should be a priority for ICE. “The governor is showing no regard for the rule of law, or for the legal immigration process, or for the people who are harmed by our failure to control illegal immigration.”
Vaughan said Cuomo’s move looks political, “because he is being challenged for reelection by someone who is even more anti-borders and anti-immigration enforcement than he is.”
Cuomo’s main opponent in the Sept. 13 primary is “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon.
“He’s trying to cover his left flank on immigration with this emotional reaction to perfectly legitimate ICE operations,” Vaughan said.
“He’s going after the vote of immigrants who have become citizens, but he’s also trying to gain the support of all the activist groups that do all the legwork in campaigns—like the unions and the advocacy groups—because they’re the ones that go through the neighborhoods knocking on doors, giving out literature, telling people to vote for him. And they tend to be very much anti-enforcement.”
Vaughan said she thinks Cuomo is miscalculating and risks alienating the Democrats who would like to see immigration laws enforced.
Immigrant Versus Illegal Immigrant
Vaughan said Cuomo’s conflation of “immigrant” and “illegal immigrant” is a common tactic to blur the distinction between the two—to suggest that any action against an illegal immigrant is an action against the concept of immigration.
“The reason they do that is because most people have no problem with legal immigrants. … [It’s] appealing to people’s positive feelings about immigrants in general and our tradition of immigration,” she said.
Cuomo also issued an executive order that prohibits ICE arrests in state facilities and prohibits state agencies from inquiring about immigration status.
ICE is already barred from most jails in New York. The agency used to have a work space at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York City. However, several years ago, as New York City increased its sanctuary policies, ICE was kicked out. Suffolk County and Nassau County—two counties with a serious MS-13 gang problem—have the closest working relationship with ICE.
Homan said ICE has arrested nearly 5,000 criminal aliens in New York since Sept. 2016.
“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 said. “The governor supports these policies at the expense of the safety of the very same communities he took an oath to protect.”
Cuomo also touted an extra $10 million in the fiscal year 2019 budget that will go toward providing illegal immigrants free legal support.
Marcial DeLeon-Aguilar’s History of Deportation
Jan. 16, 2008: Ordered removed by immigration judge.
Feb. 7, 2008: Deported from New Orleans
Aug. 18, 2010: Arrested by Border Patrol near Lukeville, Arizona, and issued a notice to reinstate prior order
June 1, 2011: Pleaded guilty to re-entry, under the alias of Jesus Adrian Bonilla-Lopez
June 17, 2011: Deported from Phoenix with a warning
Dec. 27, 2013: Arrested by Border Patrol near Roma, Texas, and issued a notice to reinstate prior order
Jan. 3, 2014: Deported from Brownsville, Texas, with a warning