Immigration Officials Admit Day Rounding Up Illegal Day Laborers Are Not A Priority

Eric Gross, Putnam County Courier (Brewster, New York), Feb. 2, 2006

BREWSTER—U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials admitted to a group of Putnam County leaders that the rounding up of illegal day laborers is not a priority.

Last week’s session conducted behind closed doors in Carmel was attended by representatives of the federal agency as well as Brewster Mayor John Degnan, Brewster treasurer Mike Santos, Sheriff Donald Smith and members of his staff including Capt. William McNamara and William Spain, Southeast Supervisor John Dunford and Councilman Richard Honeck, Brewster Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Deborah Gregory, representatives of Congresswoman Sue Kelly and Denis Castelli, a member of Team Brewster.

While the meeting was closed to the public and press, the Courier obtained minutes of the meeting recorded by Brewster Village Clerk Bernadette Mortabano.

James Mooney, representing ICE, told the gathering that his agency was created following the 9-11 attacks. “Our priorities are national security. People linked to terrorism are number one. We are looking at the borders with interior enforcement—places that would be harmed by illegal terrorists working in places like nuclear power plants and airports. We are dealing with the criminal alien element. We can’t be everything for everybody.”

Mooney admitted that his agency had received a “tremendous amount of criticism” for overlooking illegal day laborers congregating on village streets. “Our goal is to get a handle on the criminal aliens in New York. ICE does not make sweeps. We don’t do round ups. We are sensitive to profiling and are trying to find a balance with the local police and the county to open lines of communication,” he said.

ICE supervisor Salvatore D’Alessandro explained that the public had a misconception that any alien was allowed to be asked for his papers. “We cannot do that. There must be reasonable suspicion with facts that someone is here illegally. The aliens come to places like Brewster to work and they send money home to their families. If the job magnet was not there, there wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

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