Putting Them on ICE: Policing Salvadoran Communities on Long Island

Awarded Scholars:
Karen Tejada , University of Hartford
Project Date:
Jul 2019
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Immigration and Immigrant Integration

Nearly 1.4 million immigrants from El Salvador now live in the U.S. About 200,000 of them are Temporary Protection Status (TPS) holders and 26,000 are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status beneficiaries. About 465,000 of the total are estimated to be unauthorized. Most live in mixed-status families and, given the uncertain nature of the TPS and DACA programs, and the lack of a pathway to legalization, are at high risk of sweeping changes in enforcement, as federal immigration policy has made the lack of legal status a deportable offense. About 100,000 Salvadorans live in Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island and many work in agriculture, construction, and the service sector. In Long Island, the police routinely and disproportionately profile Salvadorans, who are stereotyped as potential gang members. By county authority, local police can arrest immigrants without reasonable cause or a judicial warrant, at which point they can be taken into federal custody for removal purposes. Sociologist Karen Tejada hypothesizes that one can examine how local context matters for the criminalization of immigration—and the implications for immigrant integration and community wellbeing—with the research taking place on Long Island, a pocket of anti-immigrant sentiment in an otherwise immigrant-friendly metropolitan area. She proposes to undertake an ethnography of Hempstead and Brentwood, two communities at the center of several gang-targeted operations and workplace raids. She will focus on how local police enforce immigration policies on the ground, the effects that these actions have on the communities’ sense of safety, trust and agency, and the quality of community-police relations.


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