We believe the Immigration Protection Act (IPA) is well intentioned legislation but it provides little in new protections for immigrants living in our communities. Starting with Executive Order No. 4 of 2006 by the previous County Executive and for the last 7+ years of the current County Executive, Westchester County does not investigate or detain any resident based solely on their immigration status. The same policy stands today throughout municipal law enforcement across Westchester County. The immigrant community should know that Law Enforcement is there to serve them and protect them regardless of their immigration status.

Unfortunately, the IPA establishes ill-advised new policies regarding immigrants who are taken into custody for a non-immigration-related criminal charge or those housed in our County Jail. It effectively undermines and micromanages Law Enforcement and puts the safety of the general public at risk.

Our County Attorney and the heads of our County Police, Jail, Probation and Social Services Departments testified in Committee Meetings that new policies mandated by this legislation will impede their ability to engage and serve the immigrant community and possibly contravene existing state and federal law. The intent of the language in the IPA seeks to limit how Law Enforcement gathers information from people in custody and provides that information to state and federal authorities. It looks to prevent communication between agencies and levels of Law Enforcement, a tried and true tenant of public safety.

The IPA clearly seeks to eliminate the distinction between those who enter our country legally or not and, in fact, extends more protections to those here illegally than the average US citizen.

Regardless of what the sponsors of the IPA say, it amounts to a declaration by Westchester County that we are a “Sanctuary County” according to guidelines that qualify the county for federal law enforcement funding that will go into effect in September. The loss of this funding, which has been conservatively estimated at $13 million, would have a crippling effect on our County Police and County Jail budgets. It will also affect DSS, which will hurt the very people the proponents of this act claim to protect.

We agree with our colleagues that we want our immigrant community to feel safe and welcome in Westchester County. Nurturing trust between Law Enforcement and the immigrant community is an essential component to that objective. The IPA does nothing to build trust, impedes law enforcement in performing their jobs and imperils public safety as well as millions of dollars in funding. For these reasons, we voted against the IPA.