Jack Martins pledged Thursday not to let Nassau County become a “sanctuary” for undocumented immigrants if elected county executive, hardening his anti-gang stance.
County law enforcement officials would continue to work with with federal authorities to deport “violent” criminals in the county illegally under Martins’ Republican administration, the former state senator said. And he would oppose legislation limiting such coordination.
Martins said his approach is necessary to keep residents safe and weaken the power of MS-13, a Latin American gang suspected of several recent killings across Long Island.
MS-13 comprises both U.S. natives and immigrants from countries such as El Salvador.
“If they’re going to hack kids up with machetes, it’s not an immigration issue. It’s a public safety issue,” Martins told about 75 people Thursday at a town hall event in Mineola.
In a statement Friday morning, Martins accused Democratic county executive candidates Laura Curran and George Maragos of pandering to immigrant-rights groups and advocates that oppose more aggressive federal enforcement.
Martins called “unfortunate” a law the Westchester County Legislature passed Monday that would reportedly limit the information local police share with federal agents, and the questions police can ask about immigration status and citizenship.
Republican County Executive Rob Astorino pledged to veto the bill, the Journal News reported.
“We will not pander or play politics or advance a political agenda at the cost of the safety of the residents of Nassau County,” Martins said.
Martins, the son of Portuguese immigrants, said his stance is not “anti-immigrant” but rather “anti-gang.”
He said he opposes “mass deportation” of undocumented immigrants charged with low-level crimes and those who have committed no crime other than entering the country without proper papers.
Nassau County already cooperates with federal immigration authorities in most cases, police officials said.
The Nassau County Police Department does not enforce immigration warrants unless a person is arrested for a separate crime, which requires police to check the person’s criminal history, Acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
Arrested immigrants targeted by ICE’s administrative warrants, known as detainer requests, are held for 48 hours and released if ICE does not take them into custody, Ryder said at a separate event Thursday. But police do detain immigrants on warrants issued by a judge, he said.
“Regardless of a person’s legal status, all persons in Nassau County are required to abide by the local, state and federal laws currently in effect,” Ryder said in a statement Friday.
Westchester County’s law would make it optional for local cops to honor ICE detainer requests.
New York City, one of the most adamant “sanctuary” municipalities, does not honor them unless the person has been convicted of a “violent or serious felony” in the last five years.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office decided in December to once again honor detainer requests after two years of requiring judicial warrants to hold immigrants, Newsday reported.
Under President Donald Trump, ICE has conducted deportation raids sweeping up undocumented immigrants with and without prior criminal histories.
Martins’ remarks came two days after ICE arrested 32 undocumented immigrants with sex crime convictions across Long Island. Some arrests were in Mineola and Port Washington.
Two weeks ago, Martins attacked Curran, a county legislator, for receiving endorsements from groups that opposed Trump’s racially charged rhetoric on immigration and called for more investment in immigrant communities rather than ICE crackdowns.
Curran said she supports local cooperation with federal authorities to root out gang violence, but that doing so also requires police to gain the trust of immigrant communities.
“It is disgraceful that Jack Martins would use this very serious issue to try and score cheap political points,” Curran said.
Maragos, the county comptroller and Curran’s primary opponent, said he would support a county-level policy subjecting administrative detainer requests to judicial review. Martins’ approach is tantamount to “the tactics of a police state,” he said.
“Martins’ repeated statements in support of Trump’s misguided immigration policies will exacerbate fear amongst our immigrant and ethnic communities,” Maragos said in a statement.
Amelia Camurati contributed reporting.