East End law enforcement officials are waiting to see how best to handle an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last week that empowers state and local authorities to perform the functions of immigration officers to the fullest extent of the law.

The executive order, signed by the president on January 25, just five days after he took the oath of office, enlists the aid of local police departments in enforcing federal immigration law, which is civil, not criminal. That would be a significant change for local agencies, which do not make arrests solely based on a person’s status as undocumented.

“Until we receive some specific direction or a direct order, our role has not changed and we don’t anticipate being asked to do anything differently,” East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said on Tuesday.

He’s not the only one waiting to see what happens.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said that although he thinks the country needs immigration reform, at the moment his police force is not ready to take on the additional role.

“We don’t have the training,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s an item that [Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings] and I are going to discuss. It’s much more complicated than signing an order.” Chief Cummings did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Epley explained that he and the Village Police also need to factor in the number of cells needed at the jail, the cost of transporting additional detainees, and the cost of feeding them while in custody. However, the mayor said that if individuals with criminal records need to be detained, and Mr. Trump’s executive order gives Village Police the ability to do this, it would be an additional tool for the village department in fighting crime.

The East Hampton Town Police chief has his reservations on the matter. “If they have not committed a previous crime, and we are not arresting them for a crime, we have absolutely no interest in their immigration status,” Chief Sarlo said.

Currently, the only way East Hampton Town Police can identify whether an immigrant is undocumented is when they process the individual for a crime and fingerprint them. Their fingerprint response, Chief Sarlo said, shows whether there is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement detainer hold. The chief said his understanding is that these are issued only when that person has been charged with a serious crime.

If a detainer hold exists, Chief Sarlo said, he and his department members contact ICE to verify the identity of the person and whether the hold is still valid. If it is then it is a matter of whether ICE can send agents out to pick up the individual. “It is very rare—and we are only talking about fingerprintable offenses, wherein the arrestee is already charged or convicted of a serious crime and is here illegally,” he said.

Those in the system who are accused of committing a crime and are found by the Department of Homeland Security to be undocumented can be held for up to 48 hours, and if that time passes without the detainee being picked up, he or she is then released. Criticizing that as “catch-and-release,” Mr. Trump’s executive order is intended to stop that practice.

Sister Mary Harvey of Water Mill, a member of Neighbors in Support of Immigrants, said she is concerned that police are now obligated to detain undocumented residents, even for minor offenses. She said her organization is trying to set up a meeting with the Suffolk County sheriff and Southampton Town Police officials to find out how these new roles are going to be handled.

She also said the organization has been out in the communities distributing fliers helping to explain to immigrants their legal rights.

“We all know people who are concerned, and their major concern is being deported,” Sister Harvey said. “Before, ICE was the only one who could do that. Now, we aren’t positive of what can happen if police have that power.”

Mr. Epley said there are many immigrants on the East End, not just from south of the U.S. border but also from Europe, who provide necessary services. He called for a way to improve the processing of people coming into the U.S. legally, so that they can be placed on tax rolls, get insurance through the companies they work for, and get drivers’ licenses and car insurance.

“It is important to remember: Victims of a crime are actually given preferential treatment through the …visa program in their efforts to gain citizenship,” Chief Sarlo said. “We are here to protect all those who reside here in East Hampton, and it is important we maintain the trust and cooperation of everyone.” He added that traffic violations do not trigger any sort of interaction with regard to immigration.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman declined to comment on the executive order, saying he has not seen or confirmed what it actually says.

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