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Minority Leader John Testa and Legislator Margaret Cunzio Statement in Opposition to the Immigrant Protection Act


Despite its name, the Immigrant Protection Act does not provide new protections for our immigrant community. In fact, the IPA, as it is written, protects criminals while putting innocent people in greater danger.


The Act will make it more difficult to make transfers of prisoners at the county jail who are wanted on federal charges by Homeland Security. The jail provides a safe and neutral place to make such transfers. Under this act, transfers would be moved into the community which poses greater risks for innocent members of the community and Law Enforcement.


We want our immigrant community to feel safe and welcome in Westchester County. We applaud District Attorney Scarpino for establishing a task force within his office to ensure that those immigrants coming forward to report crimes will not face repercussions related to their immigration status. Nurturing trust between Law Enforcement and the immigrant community is an essential component to that objective. No one wants to prevent victims of crimes, especially domestic violence, from being reported out of fear of immigration issues. Shielding people who are accused of committing crimes from federal authorities is dangerous and irresponsible. When someone who is in this country illegally commits a crime, their victims are usually fellow immigrants. Why would we want to protect these predators?


Local law enforcement, including county police, do not enforce or address immigration issues. They do not seek to determine immigration status or use it in any way to perform their duties. Just to make that point clear two county executives have issued executive orders to specifically direct county police to not engage in immigration enforcement or inquire about immigration status. County Executive Spano issued his Executive Order No. 4 in 2006, and County Executive Astorino updated the directive further in September of 2017. The subject of these executive orders is exactly what the IPA is purported to address, but does not.


The IPA states that “County Law Enforcement Agencies (CLEA) shall not communicate with Federal Immigration Authorities.” One exception to this directive contained in an earlier version of the IPA was if the individual was a known gang member. This is a reasonable exception since we know of MS-13’s growing presence on Long Island which is close proximity to Westchester. Why not include this provision since there are national databases that could be used to identify such individuals? However, it was removed and when we asked for it to remain in the law, it was denied.


According to federal guidelines, the IPA will clearly cause Westchester County to be classified as a “Sanctuary County”. Another request that was denied was to include representatives of Homeland Security in the committee discussion and deliberation. We requested that federal immigration representatives be present to answer questions and give their assessment of the IPA. Shouldn’t we hear from them to determine how the IPA could affect them in the carrying out of their duties? Perhaps their input could have made a more effective law and one that everyone could support. It was another opportunity lost that could have garnered unanimous support by the BOL.

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The IPA is designed specifically to do only two things; protect undocumented criminals sitting in the county jail, and eliminate the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Anything that inhibits law local enforcement from working closely with their federal law enforcement partners like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies— is a bad and reckless idea.

 

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