Westchester Legislators Approve Immigrant Protection Act

(Photo via Westchestser Hispano)

The Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Immigrant Protection Act in a 10-5 vote, making the county the first in New York to approve a law preventing collaboration between the police and immigration agents.

Still, the implementation of the law will be vetoed by County Executive Rob Astorino, who has announced he is against the measure.

Legislator Catherine Borgia, who represents Ossining and is the majority leader in the legislature, said that immigrant advocates have put in countless hours to craft and obtain the approval of the law motivated by studies that demonstrate that the fear of being identified and deported makes immigrants less likely to contact the police when they are the victim of crimes.

Borgia said that, although the approved bill is not a sanctuary law, it is beneficial because it prevents the county from using its resources to assist in federal investigations based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national origin.

The new law also forbids departments in the country from sharing confidential information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) except in cases of a criminal investigation.

This piece of legislation will protect the confidential information of all residents, regardless of their immigration status, and will ensure that the county’s resources are not improperly allocated.

“The Immigrant Protection Act improves public safety for all county residents,” said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky.

“Law enforcement agencies across the country agree that community trust and cooperation is critical to their work. When a Westchester immigrant mother is the victim of a crime, she needs to trust that she can seek the support of police. This legislation aims to do exactly that,” said Shimsky.

For her part, Carola Otero Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link, was satisfied with the passage of the bill, particularly for the support of the majority of Westchester’s legislators.

“We are grateful to legislators Borgia and Maisano, who worked tirelessly with us to craft the Immigrant Protection Act. We are also incredibly grateful for the collaborative effort of the activists who worked to push this bill forward,” said Bracco.

Rob Astorino Speaks

Accompanied by representatives of the county’s departments of public safety and correction, County Executive Robert P. Astorino promised to veto the bill approved by the legislature.

Astorino said that that legislation (…) would put public safety in jeopardy, particularly that of immigrant communities, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and be almost impossible to enforce.

Westchester is a diverse county with vibrant immigrant communities that are welcomed and valued, Astorino said. “I’m opposed to this act because it puts public safety at risk, especially (…) in our immigrant communities, puts Westchester at odds with our own federal government, creates rights not available to ordinary citizens, will jeopardize approximately $13 million in federal funds, and is so confusing as to be unenforceable.”

“It all adds up to be a dangerous idea and for those reasons I will veto this legislation,” said Astorino.

He added that immigration law enforcement and deportations are the responsibility of the federal government, not county police, and that this law severely restricts the ways in which local communities and law enforcement communicate with federal agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

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