WHITE PLAINS, NY — The Westchester County Board of Legislators voted 10-5 on Monday to approve the Immigrant Protect Act. Westchester is the first county in the state to pass such a law, which still faces a veto from the county executive, Rob Astorino.
“The intent of this bill is to create a policy of public safety for all in Westchester County,” said Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). “In surveys all across the country, immigrants have reported that they are less likely to contact police officers if they have been the victim of a crime because of potential immigrant consequences. Westchester is too diverse a County for our residents to live in fear. Thank you to all of the advocates who put countless hours of hard work into helping craft this law for the people of Westchester. It is now time for the County Executive to do the right thing for all of those who call our community home.”
Neighbors Link, along with a coalition of advocacy rights groups applaud the Westchester County legislature for passing the Immigrant Protection Act (IPA). The bill, put forth by County Legislator and Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, is not a sanctuary bill. It prevents Westchester County from using its resources to assist federal investigations that are based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or national origin. It also prohibits county departments and officers from sharing confidential information with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) unless ICE demonstrates probable cause. This is important because it protects public safety by ensuring that people can report crimes without fear of revealing their immigration status.
Neighbors Link Community Law Practice provided significant input to the Board of Legislators in drafting this act and we strongly support its passage. We are hopeful that County Executive Rob Astorino will uphold the will of our elected representatives and sign this important legislation into law.
This legislation will protect the confidential information of all residents, regardless of immigration status, and ensure that limited county resources are not misappropriated.
“The Immigrant Protection Act improves public safety for all county residents,” added Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “Law enforcement agencies around the country agree that community trust and cooperation is critical to their work. When an immigrant mother in Westchester is the victim of a crime she needs to trust that she can seek the support of the police – this legislation aims to do exactly that.”
“We are deeply gratified to have the support of the majority of the Westchester Board of Legislators and for the leadership of Legislators Borgia and Maisano, who worked tirelessly alongside us to create the Immigrant Protection Act. We are also incredibly grateful to the collaborative effort by a stellar collection of advocates who worked to bring this bill forward,” added Carola Bracco, Executive Director of Neighbors Link. “We strongly encourage County Executive Astorino to uphold the will of the majority of legislators who support this vital piece of legislation.”
An astute observation was made by Rabbi Aaron Brusso of Bet Torah, in Mt. Kisco. “When we call someone ‘alien’ or ‘illegal’ we short circuit our own emotional wiring,” he said. “We make them different than us and convince ourselves we cannot trust them. Then we make laws that we think make us safer, but actually, make us less safe. We take the people we don’t trust and we make them distrustful of law enforcement, distrustful of the court system and distrustful of government. A community with no trust is a community in which everyone is alien and no one is a human being.”
The IPA for Westchester can be a case study for other counties that are already grappling with a reduction in seasonal labor that the coastal and vacation communities within those counties so heavily rely on.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants. It has always been a strength of our democracy. Having first-hand experience of what it is like to be an immigrant in this country today, I am certain this will improve public safety for everyone and allow better cooperation between law enforcement & Westchester County residents,” said Legislator Virginia Perez (D-Yonkers).
ABOUT THE ACT: This legislation protects the confidential information of all county residents, regardless of immigration status, and ensures that limited county resources are not misappropriated for federal immigration enforcement.
The Westchester Immigrant Protection Act is not a sanctuary bill. It simply ensures county law enforcement focuses its attention and resources on protecting public safety in Westchester. It complies fully with federal law.
The stakes for Westchester’s immigrant residents are extraordinarily high. Advocates say that county resources should not be used to voluntarily support an indiscriminate federal deportation campaign fueled by fear and politics, especially at a time when trust of law enforcement is so important. Deporting immigrant neighbors does not make Westchester safer, it creates the opposite effect by eroding trust and traumatizing communities.
This legislation improves public safety for all county residents. Law enforcement agencies around the country agree that community trust and cooperation is critical to their work. When an immigrant mother in Westchester is the victim of a crime she needs to trust that she can seek the support of the police. Any perceived collaboration between county law enforcement and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) risks that she will be too afraid to come forward, which jeopardizes the public safety of the entire county.
AJ is a Father, Author, Writer, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
You can also hear AJ every Thursday morning at 7:20 A.M. on Good Morning Westchester with host Bob Marrone on WVOX