The Ulster County executive signed an executive order Wednesday concerning cooperation with federal immigration officials. The order was prompted, in part, by planned deportation raids by ICE.
Democratic County Executive Pat Ryan says he signed the order in response to escalating rhetoric from federal immigration officials and in anticipation of mass deportation raids. Ryan says it is important to clarify what may have been ambiguous.
“What is the role of any of our county agencies in being involved or not involved in what’s happening at the federal level,” says Ryan. “And what we make very clear in this order is we will not coordinate with ICE or other immigration agencies or officials.”
Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa believes many individuals may not understand the difference between federal and local law responsibilities.
“Immigration laws are done by the federal government. You will never see local law enforcement, whether it’s the state police, sheriff’s office or a town police department going around, knocking on doors and asking people for papers. That’s never happened, and it never will happen in this county,” Figueroa says. “Whenever law enforcement interacts with immigration and ICE, it’s because a crime has been committed by the individual, and a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.”
Ryan’s order prohibits county employees from gathering information about immigration status or sharing such information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection patrol officers unless compelled to do so by law. Ryan says the goal is to set clear operating guidance to all the county departments, to ensure that undocumented immigrants can obtain county services without fear of deportation.
“So, for example, if someone enters our probation system and there’s a request from ICE for information about their next probation appointment we will not provide that information,” says Ryan. “That’s been a tactic used repeatedly by ICE that we’re not going to tolerate or enable here.”
Ryan believes ICE has used such tactics in Ulster County, citing a chef at a restaurant in Kingston, The Anchor, who was deported after, Ryan believes, due process was violated. Ryan’s order directs employees not to comply with administrative warrants, which do not carry a judge’s signature and which Ryan says ICE and CBP officers have been using to bypass the right to due process. County Sheriff Figueroa:
“It’s a simple thing. It’s not.. It’s simple, Get a warrant. Get a judge-ordered warrant. That’s all it comes down to,” says Figueroa. “I can’t just arrest somebody on the street. I have to have probable cause, and that’s something that is the basic foundations of our democracy. We are a nation of laws.”
Ryan signed the order with members of a number of community groups on hand, including Citizen Action, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson Rise Up Kingston and the Ulster Immigrant Defense Network.
“As a message to those in our community who feel that they don’t have a place to turn, you do have a place to turn. We have a network here of people who want to help and support you, so please know that,” Ryan says. “It’s my honor to sign this executive order.”
“Clearly the national rhetoric, which is, again, I think divisive and not aligned with our values as Americans, has ratcheted up and, specifically, the recent threat from the president to do these nationwide raids, people are scared, and understandably so. And that’s not right and it’s not what we stand for here,” says Ryan. “So that was part of it but, frankly, this was something the community has been working on and had strong feelings on for a long time.”
President Trump over the weekend said he would delay mass deportations by two weeks. Trump tweeted on June 22nd that he is waiting “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”
If an undocumented immigrant is convicted of a crime, ICE can come in and deport the individual. That, says Figueroa, is not new.
“What is new is the federal government stating that they’re going to go around knocking on doors and rounding people up,” Figueroa says. “That is not the country that I’m from, which is the United States of America.”
Figueroa read a portion of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects civil rights, saying the key word is “person.”
Dave Clegg, a Democrat who is running for Ulster County district attorney, is chair of the Ulster County Human Rights Commission.
“Well, I think the message needs to go out to the community, to the people who are afraid to come forward, people who are living in the shadows, people who think that the president’s challenge to go out there and pick up families and children and mothers and fathers is real, well, it’s not real here in Ulster County because we’re not going to let that happen,” Clegg says.
Ryan, who was sworn in June 7 following a special election, signed his first executive order June 18, for the immediate implementation of a Climate Action Plan, moving the county’s energy production to 100 percent renewable by 2030.