NASSAU LEGISLATORS DEMAND COMMITMENT TO PERMANENT RETURN OF I.C.E. TO COUNTY CORRECTIONAL CENTER
Nassau County Legislators John Ferretti and Tom McKevitt, both of whom represent neighborhoods in the shadow of the Nassau County Jail, joined with East Meadow and Salisbury community groups to call on the County Executive to commit to allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to remain on the county jail grounds permanently. The community leaders and officials demanded the County Executive meet with neighbors in East Meadow to explain the several changes in position on ICE’s status with regard to where the County Executive intends to permanently house the federal agents. ICE agents are charged with protecting the public from dangerous criminals like MS-13 gang members. Additionally, Ferretti and McKevitt want answers on how any potential move could affect neighborhoods surrounding the correctional facility. Finally, community leaders and the officials called on the County Executive to host a public meeting in East Meadow prior to making any changes in policy regarding the relocation of ICE agents away from the county jail.
The legislators indicated that a meeting with residents surrounding the jail is something that the County Executive should have done before she served ICE an eviction letter from the campus, considering the proximity of the correctional center to Levittown, East Meadow and Salisbury residences. Also present at the press conference were Nassau Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, former Nassau Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association President, Brian Sullivan, Town of Hempstead Councilman Dennis Dunne, Community Association of Stewart Avenue President, Helen Meittinis, Levittown VFW Post 9592 Commander Mathew DeGregorio, Levittown Property Owners Association President, Brian Kelty, and members of civic and community groups from East Meadow, Levittown and Salisbury.
“It is the height of inconsideration for the County Executive to undertake sweeping changes at the jail and not even confer with the neighbors who live in such close proximity to the facility,” stated Ferretti. “The County Executive’s plan to remove ICE from the jail campus presented a real danger that would have made East Meadow, Levittown and Salisbury homeowners less safe. While I am relieved that the County Executive has reversed her decision on evicting ICE from the jail for the time being, I am concerned that she may ’flip flop’ again, thereby endangering local residents. We demand that the County Executive come to East Meadow to meet with residents, explain her decision and hear their concerns and opinions.”
The officials said that the neighbors who live around the correctional center are most directly impacted by changes at the facility. Homeowners have expressed concerns that gang members, such as those belonging to MS-13, as well as other dangerous criminals, may be released into the community because ICE will no longer be located on the jail campus. What’s more, the community leaders expressed frustration over the fact that they were not considered or consulted regarding the potential move.
“Homeowners in East Meadow and Salisbury have long endured having a major correctional facility in their backyard,” said McKevitt. “The least that the County Executive could have done would have been to give homeowners the consideration of sharing her plan and listening to residents prior to undertaking a series of drastic decisions and reversals on this serious issue.”
The officials also questioned the County Administration’s shifting rationale for evicting ICE agents from the correctional center and then returning the federal agency to the jail. While initially indicating that housing ICE in such close proximity to the jail violated a Supreme Court, Appellate Division order, the administration then changed course pledging to place ICE officials next door at the Nassau University Medical Center. Ultimately, the County Executive came “full circle” on her policy, pledging to allow ICE agents to remain at the prison “for the time being.” This uncertainty is not fair to residents. “The total lack of forethought and planning could place neighbors’ lives at risk,” said Ferretti. “It’s time for the County Executive to be accountable to Levittown, Salisbury and East Meadow residents.”
“Every day we hear a new story as to where the County Executive is going to permit ICE to be stationed,” said Helen Meittinas, President of the Community Association of Stewart Avenue. “Salisbury, East Meadow and Levittown residents deserve an opportunity to be heard on this issue and deserve a consistent message from the County Executive.”
“Now is the time for the County Executive to take responsibility for evicting ICE from the jail,” concluded McKevitt. “Let’s keep Levittown, East Meadow and Salisbury neighbors safe, as well as all residents of the county. Residents need a public meeting with the County Executive. Legislator Ferretti and I would be pleased to arrange such a get together.”