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Troy Tables Sanctuary Measure

Audience members hold up signs for and against a measure to declare Troy a sanctuary city at Thursday's city council meeting.
Lucas Willard
Audience members hold up signs for and against a measure to declare Troy a sanctuary city at Thursday's city council meeting.

After more than two hours of public dialogue on a resolution to declare Troy, New York a sanctuary city, the city council voted to delay action last night.

A long line of residents lined up to address the city council Thursday night, two days after a measure to declare Troy a sanctuary city cleared the Public Safety committee on a 2 to 1 party-line vote.

Theresolution is supported by Public Safety Chair David Bissember and Council President Pro Tempore Anasha Cummings, both Democrats.

It would require Troy police and other public services to not inquire about the immigration status of individuals. The measure also mentions Republican Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo’s agreement with the federal government that allows trained law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.

Earlier this year, Rensselaer County became the first in the state to enter what’s known as a 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Russo has said the program applies to people being held in the Rensselaer County jail.

The sanctuary resolution calls the policy a threat to public safety.

While discussion was focused on a resolution similar to measures passed in other cities, including Albany, some arguments mirrored rhetoric heard from national politicians and pundits.

First at the microphone was Nicholas Laviano, President of the Troy Police Benevolent Association.

Laviano said the city council has entered the Twilight Zone by considering the measure that he said would require police to violate federal law. He asked the council if anyone had ever attended a law enforcement officer’s funeral and directed criticism at Councilors Bissember and Cummings, lifting words from Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessup.

“We live in a world in a world that has walls and these walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s going to do it? You, David? You, Anasha? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You pass meaningless resolutions to further your political gain. You have that luxury. You have that luxury of not knowing what I know. And my existence, while probably grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives,” said Laviano.

Some individuals brought up their own family immigration history but said they wanted immigrants to enter the country the “right way.” Others reminded them that immigration laws have changed over time.

Emotional testimony came from Delila Yeend, an undocumented immigrant and Troy resident with two American-born children. She was detained by the federal government for three months following a traffic stop earlier this year.  She faced deportation before her case was dismissed.

“No matter the suffering I went through not knowing when I may see them again, it will never compare to the irreparable damage my children have gone through. My son still asks me please never leave him again and still comes to my room to see if I’m still there. My daughter lost weight and became reclusive. I was released from custody on August 16th and then finally my removal proceedings dismissed on November 19th. I have an open Green Card application and my work authorization is pending. I’m very blessed and thankful with the outcome of my situation, but I hate to think what could have happened,” said Yeend.

Adam Pelletier, a U.S. citizen born in Canada and former Marine, shared his own difficulties with entering the country at age 17. He called on the crowd to recognize that the U.S. immigration system is broken.

“Considering that the likelihood of federal immigration reform happening on the federal level is very small, one of the things that we should do as a city is try to protect our neighbors in whatever small ways we can, even if it all it really may end up doing is making us feel good about merely codifying the existing practices in the city of Troy,” said Pelletier.

Troy resident Jason Belanger does not support the sanctuary resolution, but also called for more discussion on the measure. He argued for a public referendum.

“Whether you’re on the right or you’re on the left of it, it doesn’t matter. We’re not allowing the people to speak. And if there is a way that that can happen, then I think this council should do it. I thank you all for your hard work and I really hope you would think twice about passing this in this setting tonight,” said Belanger.

After more than two hours of comments, Councilor Bissember announced he would agree to table the measure to allow for further discussion.

“Let me be very clear. We are going to continue working on this issue. And I still support this issue and I thank all of the members of the public who have been here today. That being said, I will look to move to table in an effort to bring everyone to the table,” said Bissember.

Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello, who had suggested holding neighborhood meetings on the sanctuary issue, welcomed the decision to table.

“I had an opinion at the beginning. I still do not support it. However, I’ve learned a lot,” said Mantello.

Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden announced prior to Thursday’s meeting that he did not support the sanctuary measure. He’s called the legislation divisive and wants input from the city police department. Madden said he met with the councilors in support of the measure prior to Thursday’s meeting. 

“I do like the idea of reaching out to the public and continuing the dialogue as well,” said Madden.

Madden, who has hosted neighborhood meetings on a variety of issues, said he would attend any regarding immigration.

“Without a doubt. I’ll do as many as they want,” said Madden.

Note 12/8/18 6:13 a.m.: This text of this story was updated to include a link to a movie scene referenced by PBA President Nicholas Laviano.

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