Building Sanctuaries to Help Immigrants in Westchester

Mayor Dennis Pilla, Councilman Luis Marino, State Senator George Latimer, State Assemblyman Steve Otis, Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway, Port Chester Village Manager Christopher Steers, St. Peter’s Church Rector Father Hilario Albert and activist and HVCC director Luis Yumbla at the community meeting held in Port Chester to support immigrants facing fear. (Photo via Westchester Hispano)

Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla, Board of Trustee member Luis Marino, state Sen. George Latimer, state Assemblyman Steve Otis, Police Chief Richard Conway, Village Manager Christopher Steers, St. Peter’s Church Rector Father Hilario Albert and activist and HVCC director Luis Yumbla at the community meeting held in Port Chester to support immigrants facing fear. (Photo via Westchester Hispano)

The threat of deportations made by President-elect Donald Trump is mobilizing the community to achieve unity to help undocumented immigrants. The announcement to eliminate sanctuary cities in his first 100 days of government has generated fear within our community.

Faced by these circumstances, Port Chester activists and elected officials met on Wednesday Nov. 16 at St. Peter’s Church to answer questions from immigrants and, above all, to tell them that they are not alone and that they have their full support.

“Undocumented immigrants in Port Chester are our neighbors. They contribute to the economy, and I want to tell them that they do not need to be worried or afraid here in our town,” said Dennis Pilla, mayor of Port Chester, at a meeting with nearly 50 immigrants held at St. Peter’s Church.

For his part, Port Chester Council Member Luis Marino told the community that they have the town’s support and that abuse against undocumented people will not be tolerated.

State Senator George Latimer, who was also in attendance, said that “the election is over, and we all need to come together and know that there are constitutional laws that protect all people living in the United States. The White House will not be able to change that.”

State Assemblyman Steve Otis explained that Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic legislators in Albany are getting ready to assign more funding to hire lawyers to serve immigrants through legal aid organizations.

Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway told the audience that his agents have a mission to protect all residents in the state and that the community must continue to trust them and to report complaints or abuses without fear of anyone asking about their immigration status.

For his part, Village Manager Christopher Steers told the community that the doors of his office are open to help any residents who feel threatened.

“We are all united, and there should not be any fear or dread. Anyone with a complaint may come to my office,” said Steers.

The sanctuaries:

St. Peter’s Church

Father Hilario Albert, rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, said that the church will meet with all rectors to turn their houses of worship into sanctuaries for immigrants, and that he will propose Port Chester’s St. Peter’s Church for approval.

“We believe that our town needs help, and we will do everything we can to become a sanctuary church and, from here, defend our immigrant families,” said Father Hilario.

Port Chester: Sanctuary Village

Activists and elected officials have written a proposal to be introduced at a Port Chester Village Board of Trustees meeting. It is sponsored by Senator George Latimer, who will join the work commission that, alongside Port Chester community leaders and Councilman Luis Marino, will make the official presentation at the meeting in December.

“We want to ensure that the proposal is approved before the president-elect takes office in order to turn Port Chester into a sanctuary village to protect undocumented immigrants,” said Luis Yumbla, director of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition (HVCC) and Port Chester-based activist.

Sanctuary promoted across Westchester

Yumbla explained that the HVCC is promoting sanctuary cities throughout Westchester County, particularly in areas with a high concentration of immigrant residents, such as Port Chester, Tarrytown, Ossining, Peekskill, White Plains, Elmsford, New Rochelle, Yonkers and others.

“We are organizing information panels in a number of cities, and we have the support of elected officials who are concerned and willing to protect and help the immigrant communities living in those areas. We count on the active participation of residents willing to defend their rights.”

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