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NY AG Updates Guidance For Sanctuary Jurisdictions

Matt Biddulph/Flickr

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has updated legal guidance for sanctuary jurisdictions. Two elected officials in the Hudson Valley say their cities welcome the update and have been using Schneiderman’s guidance.

Schneiderman wants to clarify that President Trump’s immigration and deportation policies do not change a local government’s rights to protect immigrant communities. His updated direction follows legal guidance he issued in January to provide localities and local law enforcement with model laws and policies to become sanctuary jurisdictions. At least nine New York localities have used such guidance since, including Albany, Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca along with Kingston, Newburgh, Hudson, White Plains, and Irvington in the Hudson Valley. In fact, the Newburgh City Council was scheduled to vote Monday night on a draft resolution declaring Newburgh a fair and welcoming city.

“We used those guidelines from the attorney general’s office as a foundation, mechanism for developing ours,” says Mejia.

That’s Democratic Newburgh city councilmember Karen Mejia, who supports the resolution.

“It’s specific about what our city’s resources will be used for and what they won’t be used for. The main difference is we are not going to be utilizing our resources for civil immigration deportation cases but, everything else, criminal deportation, of course, we’re going to adhere to the law and all of those come with judicial warrants,” Mejia says. “So, we are not… In the spirit that the attorney general stated it, this is not about breaking laws, this is just about local home rule.”

Schneiderman says following President Trump’s executive orders and Department of Homeland Security memos, a number of local governments and law enforcement agencies contacted the attorney general’s office to confirm that the January 19 legal guidance still applied. Schneiderman says it does, and that localities still retain substantial discretion to limit their involvement in federal immigration enforcement. Democratic Kingston Mayor Steve Noble says the attorney general’s guidance helps his city protect immigrants, both legal and undocumented.

“One of the great things about the document that the attorney general has put out and has recently updated is that this gives us the concrete steps that we need, as a city, to be able to make sure that we’re following the appropriate protocols to be able to make sure that all of our residents are served and served equally and fairly.”

He says Kingston is now able to build on its sanctuary city memorializing resolution by adding concrete policies and procedures.

“The memorializing resolution laid out our thoughts and our vision and our goals for the city but myself and our other police commissioners actually set the appropriate practice and policies for all 73 of our sworn officers,” Noble says. “And so the language that the attorney general’s office has provided gives us the clear concrete guidance that we need to be able to then take that language and insert it into our police procedures.”

He hopes Kingston serves as a role model for surrounding communities. Mejia, meanwhile, says sanctuary city status is important for Newburgh and it’s important for residents to know they can report crimes to the police or building violations to code enforcers without fear of retribution.

“We also have individuals here that have temporary protective status who maybe they missed the filing date and now they’re going to be fearful that they go into one of our municipal buildings to ask for a service that they may be reported back to immigration services,” Mejia says. “And we want them to know that that is not the case.”

Meanwhile, Schneiderman formally filed suit Monday against President Trump’s second immigration ban, joining Washington State’s lawsuit in the Western District of Washington. New York joined Washington, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oregon in filing an amended complaint.

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