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Sanctuary City Measure Has Divided Some Troy Officials

Composite photo by Dave Lucas/WAMC

There is debate over whether Troy should become a sanctuary city.

Troy City Councilman David Bissember, a Democrat,  says his resolution would  “re-affirm Troy’s commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming city to all residents."    "And this is to build upon the work of the community policing philosophy from the Troy Police Department to ensure we can promote safety in our communities; to ensure we have an ability to continue cooperating and having a dialog with all of the Troy residents and the Troy Police Department."

Bissember says it would encourage community policing and steer officers away from making inquiries relating to immigration status.    "There are several municipalities and counties in New York state that have some type of Sanctuary City policies in their municipalities. That was certainly something that we looked at to review. We also looked at the New York State Attorney General guidelines for Sanctuary Cities. But this was really more about what's going on at the ground level and both at the national level and here in Rensselaer County."

Kendra Sena, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, says while there is no legal definition of sanctuary, most Sanctuary Cities adopt policies that limit local officials from engaging in federal immigration enforcement efforts. And as for Bissember's proposal:  "The resolution itself makes a clear statement about the actions of the law enforcement officers that are outside of its jurisdiction, which is somewhat unusual. The city of Troy is in Rensselaer County, and last year the Sheriff of Rensselaer County entered into a formal agreement with ICE, they're called 287-G agreements. Those agreements deputize local officers as ICE agents to carry out federal immigration enforcement in local jails. 287-G agreements are controversial. Rensselaer County is currently the only one in New York state, and the Troy resolution mentions the 287-G agreement in Rensselaer County as a motivating reason for the Sanctuary resolution. It says that the program undermines public trust and co-operation with law enforcement. But of course the Troy resolution has no effect on the actions of the county sheriff, and that program remains unchanged by this resolution."

Bissember says the process is just beginning:    "I look forward to continuing a dialogue with stakeholders, the administration, as well as the Troy Police officers themselves to building consensus moving forward."

Judging by reaction from Troy Police Benevolent Association President Nicholas Laviano, building that consensus may not be so easy.    "Mr. Bissember's resolution that's he trying to introduce is nothing but political grandstanding on his behalf. I don't believe that it serves the police officers and the sergeants that I represent in the PBA. It's not gonna make our job easier. We don't go around singling out any demographic in the city of Troy. We respond to calls accordingly when somebody calls 9-1-1. We pro-actively patrol our zones, and we wanna make sure that if we see a crime happening, obviously we're gonna stop out with it."

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin released a letter Monday opposing Bissember's proposal, arguing it would negatively impact public safety. Republican Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello also opposes it.    "I've said it time and time again that anyone that encounters law enforcement should be treated equally. And you know it doesn't matter, race, religion, you name it, our police force and law enforcement officials need to treat everyone equally, and I don't support this legislation."

Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden appears to be on the fence:  "I told the sponsors I'd meet with them and our Corporation Counsel and our police chief and go through it with them and hear them out and consider what they're proposing."

Bissember says "there's a lot of support online" for his resolution, which is set to be discussed tonight at a public safety meeting in city hall.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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