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Troy Mayor Opposes Sanctuary City Proposal

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden in his City Hall office, January 18, 2016.
Dave Lucas

The Democratic mayor of Troy, New York is opposing a proposal to declare the community a sanctuary city.

Tuesday evening, the Troy Public Safety Committee voted to advance a resolution that would “reaffirm its commitment” to not inquire about the immigration status of individuals receiving government services. It passed along party lines, with two Democrats in support and one Republican against.

Several people lined up to speak both for and against the proposal, in a meeting that was viewed by thousands live on Facebook.

Republican Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin called the measure proposed by Public Safety chair David Bissember “ill-advised” and warned against possible repercussions from the federal government.

“This resolution could endanger the fine men and women of the Troy police department. But one thing I want to make clear to everybody in this room, is no matter what  this city council does, Rensselaer County will not be a sanctuary county. We will not question, we’re not going after anyone. But if they’re wanted by ICE we are gonna find out,” said McLaughlin.

Rensselaer County, under Republican Sheriff Patrick Russo, became the only county in New York to enter a cooperation agreement with ICE to check the immigration status of inmates in the county jail.

The president of the Troy Police Benevolent Association, Nicholas Laviano, dismissed the resolution as “political grandstanding.”

Bissember acknowledged to WAMC prior to Tuesday’s meeting that the proposal builds on the “community policing philosophy” from Troy police.

“…To ensure we can promote safety in our communities; to ensure we have an ability to continue cooperating and having a dialogue with all of the Troy residents and the Troy Police Department.”

Mayor Patrick Madden, a fellow Democrat, does not support the measure and calls it divisive.

“The Troy Police Department doesn’t inquire about one’s status. The Troy Police Department doesn’t stop or detain or arrest anyone on suspected immigration status. That’s just not their job. So no one coming into our community or who’s here in our community at this point will be treated any differently if this resolution passes, yet it has driven a huge wedge into our city,” said Madden.

Madden says the proposal that will appear before the full Troy City Council Thursday was not developed with input from the Troy police department. Under Troy’s city charter, the mayor could either approve a measure or veto, or take no action. If the mayor takes no action within 10 days, the measure may still go into effect. Troy’s city council is controlled by Democrats with a separately elected council president, Republican Carmella Mantello.

Madden, who does not sit on the council, wants more community discussion between sides on the sanctuary issue.

“You know, I don’t think we’re all that far apart, really, except for the damage that’s been done in trying to push this through. I think that it will take some work, but I think we can sit down and we could work through the differences and I’d want the police department to be at the table, and to talk about how this impacts them on a day-in-day-out basis,” said Madden.

The Troy City Council is scheduled to meet Thursday at 7 p.m.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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