Tompkins County approves resolution protecting immigrants
By Jaime Cone
Feb 22, 2017
After an hour of public comment followed by another hour of debate, the Tompkins County Legislature Tuesday passed a resolution "to maintain a safe, inclusive government and protection, order, conduct, safety, health, and well-being of all persons in Tompkins County."
All but two of legislators, Glen Morey (R-Groton) and David McKenna (R-Newfield), voted in favor of the resolution. Michael Sigler (R-Lansing) was not present on an excused absence.
The resolution is similar to other "sanctuary" resolutions passed by municipalities in response to President Donald Trump's executive order cracking down on undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday, documents were made public that revealed the full scope of the President's plans to "no exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement."
Mayor Svante Myrick and the Common Council passed an ordinance two weeks ago that officially declared Ithaca a sanctuary city, using legislation similar to the resolution that legislator Legislator Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) and constitutional law professor Kathleen Bergin drafted for approval by the legislature.
The four-page resolution includes the statement that county departments, officers, personnel, and agents should not engage in certain activities solely for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration law, including executing a stop based solely on actual or suspected immigration status or a civil immigration warrant, administrative warrant, or an immigration detainer in the individual’s name, including those identified in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
Kelles said that she purposely excluded the word "sanctuary" from the resolution because it is a broad term that has been used by numerous other municipalities to describe a wide range of scenarios. "It is not a legal definition," she said. "It is a political definition."
Kelles said that the extent to which the local legislation may affect the county financially is still unknown, though the federal government's discretion may be limited to funding that supports local law enforcement agencies.
"That is under debate, but there are case laws that show that federal government cannot take steps that are coercive with respect to withholding federal funding," she said. "There is also case law that shows that any action taken by the federal government must be germane; for example, for grants that are put forward stipulations should be germane to that grant and to the welfare of the United States."
The resolution also states that "the mere fact of being present in the United States without authorization, by itself, does not constitute a crime," which Legislator Peter Stein (D-Ithaca) moved to have taken out on the basis that people may be confused by the language and that it may "create enemies" among those who believe that immigrants should not remain in the county without official documentation.
Stein was the only legislator to vote in favor or his proposed amendment to remove the clause.
About 55 members of the public attended the meeting, and the vast majority of those who addressed the legislature were in favor of the resolution. Many spoke about potential chilling effect that the fear of deportation could have on immigrants' willingness to interact with law enforcement.
"That fear will actually prevent local law enforcement from doing its job," said local resident Sara Schaffzin, "since it will deter immigrants from reporting crime to the police for fear of being rounded up and deported."
Legislature Chair Michael Lane said that he stands in full support of the resolution. "We look at people who come here from another country as a resource to us," he said. "They provide ideas, intellect and diversity, and we need that."http://www.ithaca.com/news/ithaca/tompki...0189d9a0d3.html