In advance of expected changes in federal immigration enforcement practices and priorities under President Donald Trump, advocates fear millions of people could be affected. Steps are being taken at state and local levels to stay fears of roundups and mass deportations.
Last Thursday, 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.
Several cities across New York, including Syracuse and New York City, have adopted such policies. Kingston is working on one.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Demos have released a report designed to give jurisdictions and institutions guidance for establishing policies that welcome and protect immigrants. Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez is Senior Counsel at Demos. "We've been very, very concerned about the increase in hate crimes and hate speech, and also his threats of mass deportation of 2 to 3 million people, of having a registry for people who are of Muslim descent, and all sorts of things that go against the value of local communities. The first part of the study is that local governments do have certain leeway to enact their own policy. Of course, they can't discriminate or violate the Constitution, just as the federal government can't, but they do have some leeway to enact policies that will protect against racial profiling, against abuses of Constitutional rights and favoring of the protection of immigrants. The federal government is always gonna have exclusive jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws, but as far as the treatment of immigrants and whether or not they're profiled and whether or not they're picked up by local police, that depends on local power and local communities."
The second part of the report addresses legal and Constitutional rights against racial profiling. Joanna Cuevas-Ingram, Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, says more than a thousand hate crimes have been reported since Election Day. "And there were widespread fears of racial profiling and mass deportations and I think many folks are concerned, particularly Dreamers and students and parents of students seeking a pathway to citizenship and inclusion here in the United States and equality here in the United States. The report notes there are over 400 jurisdictions right now, working to provide a pathway to inclusion, at least at the local level, to show that wherever you come from, whatever your background, if you're here and you're living in our city, or our county, or our jurisdiction, and in four cases or states in California, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont, you're living in these regions, then you are welcome and you should be treated as an equal."
In December, an organization calling itself "New Sanctuary for Immigrants of the Capital Region" stormed Albany City Hall prior to a Common Council meeting to ensure Albany would be a safe haven for the undocumented. The city actually already appears on listings of " sanctuary cities," and Mayor Kathy Sheehan has said on more than one occasion that Albany IS a sanctuary city, where police have already been told if they should stop anyone not to ask for that individual's immigration status.
Earlier that month Sheehan spoke to a crowd gathered for an “Anti-KKK Presidency” Freedom Rally in Townsend park, and confirmed that anyone stopped by city police will NOT be questioned regarding legal status. She reiterated her position last week: "Albany is a sanctuary city, but that's a term that has not really been well-defined, so I think it's great that the attorney general has released guidelines along with legal analysis with respect to what is really common-sense policy. When somebody calls the police, they shouldn't worry that they're going to be asked about their immigration status. When somebody's pulled over by the police, they shouldn't worry that they're going to be asked about their immigration status. If they come to City Hall, we shouldn't be inquiring about immigration status, that's a federal - job of the federal government. And I think it's really important that we make sure that people know this is a welcoming city, this is a place where we have people from all over the world who come here and they should feel that they're welcomes and they should feel safe."
Governor Andrew Cuomo has called New York a place of refuge. Citing what he labels "Trump's draconian immigration policies," Schneiderman says public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and communities. The Trump administration is moving to require sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal laws.
Below you will find NY Attorney General Schneiderman's report, the LatinoJustice PRLDEF / Demos Report, and the December 2016 resolution before the Common Council reaffirming Albany's human rights stance.