Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the Immigrant Protection Act into law this afternoon.
The measure, which passed the Board of Legislators by a vote of 11-3 on March 12, prevents Westchester County from using any of its resources to assist in federal investigations based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
“The Board of Legislators came together in a bipartisan way, with the assistance of law enforcement and immigration advocates alike, to craft a law which fully complies with federal law while offering humane peace of mind to our immigrant brothers and sisters,” Latimer said. “This law makes all Westchester residents safer by increasing trust between communities and allowing Westchester law enforcement officials to focus on their job, not the federal government’s.”
The Immigrant Protection Act follows a model laid out by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman aimed at protecting immigrant communities. The model provisions clarify that local law enforcement can limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement activities in several ways: by refusing to enforce federal nonjudicial civil immigration warrants; by denying federal requests to hold uncharged individuals in custody more than 48 hours; by limiting access of federal agents to individuals currently in custody; and by limiting information-gathering that will be used exclusively for federal immigration enforcement.
“Our job is to keep Westchester residents safe, regardless of their background,” said Martin McGlynn, acting commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. “Increased cooperation between residents and our officers helps make our county safer for everyone.”
Earlier this month, the measure was passed by all present members of the Democratic Caucus, who were joined by Yonkers Republican David J. Tubiolo. Democratic members Mike Kaplowitz and Lyndon Williams were absent from that vote.
However, opponents of the legislation believe the Immigrant Protection Act will designate Westchester as a “sanctuary” county.
Sanctuary jurisdictions are those that have ordinances or practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sanctuary jurisdictions run the risk of losing access to certain federal law enforcement grants if they prohibit officials from communicating with ICE.
The Immigrant Protection Act was first introduced to the board in February of last year, and the bill’s language was the subject of months of back-and-forth negotiations between Republican and Democratic members.
Legislators ultimately passed the Immigrant Protection Act by a vote of 10-5 on Aug. 7. However, just hours after the act was passed by the Board of Legislators, then-County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced his own plans to veto the legislation, saying the act would severely restrict how local law enforcement officials communicate with federal agencies. An attempt to override the veto failed by a single vote by the Board of Legislators in September.