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ICE arrest of New York dairy farmer incites Cuomo reaction

GummyBone/iStock/Thinkstock Police vehicles parked on side of the road with lights flashing
ICE AT IT AGAIN: Unannounced ICE actions on farms border on being unconstitutional invasion of citizens’ rights.
Gov. Cuomo charges ICE aggression was unconstitutional conduct; orders cease and desist.

Yesterday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a cease and desist letter to Deputy Director Thomas Homan of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, threatening legal action if there wasn't an immediate stop to their "reckless and unconstitutional" enforcement actions.

Cuomo’s response came following last week’s ICE arrest of John Collins, a dairy farmer near Rome, N.Y. In his letter to Homan, the Cuomo cited the arrest as “an example of the kind of egregious and unconstitutional conduct your agents routinely engage.”

On the morning of April 18, Collins heard a commotion on his property and investigated. He discovered plain-clothed ICE agents aggressively questioning one of his farm workers while pushing him up against a window. The worker’s young children had been waiting for the school bus and were now watching their father being assaulted, Cuomo noted.

Collins approached the agents to determine what was happening on his private property, and video what was taking place with his cellphone. The farmer was handcuffed. His cellphone was thrown to the ground.

The agents did not have a warrant to enter Collin’s property, nor did they identify themselves or their purpose for being there, Cuomo added.

Cease and desist order
On-farm ICE investigations have been going on in New York for several years. “The raids and arrests of our workers has left many farm families fearful and angry,” stressed Richard Ball, state agriculture and markets commissioner. “What is happening today has not only shaken the agricultural community, but these actions also have a real potential to impact our agricultural economy with the loss of farms, jobs and production.

But this one, in combination with other ICE actions in Staten Island, “have severely undermined the safety and health of several communities,” Cuomo noted. “The reckless and unconstitutional practices ICE is deploying in our communities violate everything we believe and are an assault on our democracy.

“I demand ICE immediately cease and desist this pattern of conduct. If they fail to do so, I will pursue all available legal recourse and commit to doing everything in my power to protect the rights and safety of all New Yorkers.”

Without a solution to ensure that undocumented workers who clear background checks can obtain work visas and new workers are properly vetted and legal, the ag industry is vulnerable to losing its labor force. According to a Farm Credit East report on 2012 Census data, approximately 1,080 New York farms would be impacted by the deportation of undocumented agricultural workers, forcing these farms to go out of business or significantly reduce their operations. 

New York agricultural production would likely be reduced by more than $1.37 billion, or 24%. This would result in more than 21,500 on-farm workers losing their jobs, both immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens. The indirect impact could be even more widespread, with the reduction of as many as 23,490 workers employed in other agricultural related fields, such as agricultural marketing and processing businesses, farm suppliers and farm service businesses. The substantial loss of farm operations in New York could lead to increased imports from other countries, and the loss of highly valuable farmland to development and other non-agricultural uses.

Source: N.Y. Department of Agriculture and Markets

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