Will NYS Pass Sanctuary State Legislation?

Senator José Serrano, Jr. (Photo via El Diario)

(…) If a bill seeking to turn New York into a “sanctuary state” becomes law, it would shield every New York municipality from the threats of the federal government against the immigrant community.

Bill S5242, introduced in the Legislature by State Senator José Serrano, Jr., seeks to create the “Dignity for Immigrants in New York State Act,” forbidding the detention of people for immigration law violations, and thereby preventing them from being put in deportation processes.

(…) Although similar projects were rejected in previous sessions by a Republican majority, this time there is hope that the law will now see the light of day in the hands of a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

“Programs such as Secure Communities have had a chilling effect on immigrant populations, and immigrants frequently fear and hesitate to show up [in court] when they have been victims or witnesses of crimes,” said Senator Serrano, (…) adding that turning the state into a sanctuary does not mean that there will be impunity or protection for undocumented people who commit serious crimes.

“The bill, which does not protect those who commit violent crimes and some misdemeanors, is a commonsense response to improve public safety. It should be a non-partisan issue, and I hope to be able to create consensus,” he said.

The bill states that a law enforcement agency of the state shall not detain persons otherwise eligible for release unless such a person has been convicted of a violent felony offense or convicted in the last five years of certain misdemeanors. Previous versions introduced in 2013, 2015 and 2017 were unsuccessful.

The piece of legislation is currently with the Senate Committee on Finance, which will put it up for consideration. It is expected to be well-received there, as current chair Senator Liz Krueger is a co-sponsor of the bill.

If the bill becomes state law, New York will join the California and Connecticut, which are already have passed legislation making them sanctuary states.

Caitlin Girouard, spokeswoman for Governor Andrew Cuomo, (…) said that Senator Serrano’s proposal will be analyzed.

“Last year, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order to forbid ICE arrests in any executive agency without a court order, and he is now proposing that his executive order be codified into legislation in order to apply it in all public buildings,” said the official. “We will continue to review any other legislation that protects immigrants in New York from ICE’s reckless actions.”

Advocates of the bill say that less than 10 percent of immigrants detained under the Secure Communities program – which seeks to arrest people who represent a threat to public safety –are dangerous. Thousands of undocumented people without a criminal record have been placed in deportation processes.

Although several sectors within both chambers in Albany support the bill, conservative voices have already protested, saying that the measure is unwise for the security of the state and that it rewards those who fail to comply with immigration law.

“It is a mistaken, dangerous and senseless measure, and I am surprised to see that legislators are doing everything they can for citizens to be less safe,” said State Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis.

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