The perception of Albany as a sheltering place for the undocumented began around 2009 and has continued through the present day. There has been ongoing debate over whether or not Albany is a “Sanctuary City.”
The city appears on listings of "sanctuary cities," and Mayor Kathy Sheehan has verbalized its status on more than one occasion, most recently in January. "Albany is a Sanctuary City, but that's a term that is not really been well-defined."
On Monday, the first-term Democrat issued an executive order “reaffirming Albany’s commitment to community policing and protecting immigrants.” "Certainly the Trump administration has failed to define what they mean by 'Sanctuary Cities.' And so, I think it is a term without definition, and this executive order clarifies what we mean in the city of Albany when we talk about protecting immigrant rights."
In January, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave local governments and law enforcement agencies a legal roadmap for improving public safety by protecting vulnerable immigrant communities.
It includes various model laws and policies that, if voluntarily enacted by a local government, would codify “sanctuary” policies into local law. Albany’s executive order prohibits the police and other city departments from requesting proof of an individual’s citizenship status when providing services. Sheehan says it ensures residents will be treated with equity and will have access to services regardless of immigration status. "When somebody calls 9-1-1 they should be more concerned about reporting the crime that they are calling 9-1-1 for or getting the emergency service that they're calling 9-1-1 for and not worry about whether or not they're going to be asked about their immigration status."
Albany mayoral candidate Frank Commisso Jr. had been a Common Council member since 2009, the year the panel voted to support immigrant rights across the city. The Democrat sees the executive order as a re-affirmation of that policy. "You know I do think that there's a level of irresponsibility there by the folks at city hall to certainly have one thing be the city policy, reaffirm that a policy, but then, in some respects, use social media and the media more broadly to present that that policy represents some 'Sanctuary City' status."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has called New York a place of refuge. Will Cuomo be the firewall between Albany and Washington? Conservative mayoral candidate Joe Sullivan wonders. "By June 30th of this year, Albany and every other municipality has to be in compliance with the president's executive order on immigration. Thereafter they can be losing, in the case of Albany, this amounts to millions of dollars. I think by the mayor's own calculation at least $7 million. The mayor hired, I believe it was 10 new policeman. Well those policemen are gonna lose their jobs because there won't be the federal funding."
Green Party mayoral candidate Dan Plaat says he supports Sheehan’s executive order, although he hasn’t read it. “This isn’t just about protecting immigrants, but all of us from the vast police and security state that is more about exploitation than law and order.”