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Immigration Debate Renewed In Troy

Immigrant advocates display a banner that reads ''sanctuary everywhere." File photo.
Lucas Willard
Immigrant advocates display a banner that reads ''sanctuary everywhere." File photo.

The debate over whether Troy should classify itself as a Sanctuary City has returned.

After intense political debate and protests last year, the Troy City Council in December tabled a measure to declare the Collar City a Sanctuary City.

Months later, the bill’s sponsors, Public Safety Chair David Bissember and City Council President Pro Tempore Anasha Cummings, are revisiting the issue.

The Democrats organized a press conference on Tuesday announcing that a revised measure would be brought forward, renamed the Resolution on Families and Communities Together: The FACT Act.  Here’s Councilor Bissember.

“The point of this resolution is to do what we can to protect immigrant communities all residents in our city. This is the authority that we have empowered by the city charter and our role is to make sure that we’re doing what we can to protect our communities here in Troy,” said Bissember.

Also on Tuesday, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden issued a memo reiterating his opposition to the original Sanctuary proposal and outlining city practices regarding immigration enforcement.

The Democrat, running for reelection, said in his memo that “the term ‘sanctuary city’ has no legal meaning” and would “create confusion as well as an unsubstantiated set of expectations.”

Madden mentions the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in a so-called 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. The agreement allows trained staff inside the Rensselaer County Jail to check the immigration status of detained individuals. He says the agreement “effectively places Immigration agents within our city.”

While Madden declined to comment on his memo to WAMC, he has discussed the matter previously. Here he is speaking prior to the tabling of the original Sanctuary measure last December.

“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 outlined in his memo protections in the U.S. Constitution under the Fourth and Tenth Amendments as to why Troy police do not and shall not make arrests based solely on immigration status or act as federal immigration enforcement.

At his press conference Tuesday, Bissember welcomed the mayor’s memo.

“We support the mayor’s recently released executive memo to the city employees and law enforcement personnel clarifying how and in what situations they should and shouldn’t cooperate with federal immigration officers,” said Bissember.

Speaking at the press conference in support of the revised immigration measure was Dalila Yeend. A mother of two who came to the U.S. at age 17, Yeend was arrested by Troy police after a traffic stop when she did not have a valid driver’s license. After being released by a judge, Yeend was detained by Troy police until she was arrested by federal immigration officers. She was held in an immigration detention center in Batavia, New York for several months, facing possible deportation before she was released. 

“Had these guidelines been in place last year I would have not have been ripped away from my two minor children and held at an ICE detention facility almost six hours away for three months due to a simple traffic stop,” said Yeend.

But as Democrats on the city council prepare to reintroduce their immigration bill, Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello remains opposed to the measure. She says the bill still makes the city a Sanctuary City “in effect.”

“It’s created a stir that is not needed,” said Mantello.

Mantello said she would introduce her own legislation at the July 11th council meeting that would bring the issue to voters. The local law would be the subject of three public hearings and, if passed, a citywide referendum in November.

“What I’m saying is, ‘You know what, I know I’m opposed to it. If you’re so confident that the people of Troy support it’ – because they keep saying an overwhelmingly amount of people in Troy support it – ‘if you’re so confident, put it on the ballot.’”

Mantello also criticized the Democrats for “dragging their feet” on the issue over the last seven months.

In response, Councilor Bissember says he finds it “ironic” that Council President Mantello “is dragging this out” through a local law.

Asked about the timing of his revised proposal, released a week after the Democratic primary election,  Bissember said his team has spent the last seven months holding “a half dozen” community meetings, discussing the matter with city public safety officials, and better communicating the issue with city residents.

“And I think we’ve gotten to that point. And I will say on the piece about the name, this was something where we’re looking to get a broader coalition to work with us on this issue because we recognize that the term sanctuary means a lot of different things to different people – that they have preconceived notions about that language, no matter what it is we defined it as. And so we wanted to make sure we were more inclusive in modifying that language to the Families and Communities Together Act.”

Republican mayoral candidate Tom Reale released his own statement critical of the new measure.

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