The Westchester County executive Wednesday issued an executive order on immigration, calling it a compromise after vetoing immigrant protection legislation passed by the Board of Legislators. A supporter of the bill says the order may not protect immigrants as intended.
Republican County Executive Rob Astorino says his order prevents Westchester from turning into a “Sanctuary County.”
“The executive order is really a balanced compromise. It continues the policy that we’ve had in this county since 2006 that says to our own police department, you cannot question or arrest somebody based solely on their immigration status. So that takes away the argument that some have and the fears that some have that they can’t walk down the street or they can’t come forward if they’ve been a victim of a crime or witnessed a crime or if they need medical attention and they’re undocumented.”
Plus, he says.
“What this executive order also does is take away the previous order which restricted information that the county could share with the federal government. And this affirms that the county, law enforcement will cooperate with the federal government when we’ve got somebody in our jail or if somebody’s been arrested for a crime, and we’re not going to give them sanctuary, and we’re not going to look the other way, and we’re not going to put them back in the community where they could potentially do more harm.”
Astorino says the county attorney found the 2006 order from former Democratic County Executive Andrew Spano to be in violation of federal law. Catherine Borgia is Democratic Majority Leader of the county Board of Legislators.
“The thing that is good about the executive order is it shows that this issue has come before the county executive and he’s taking it seriously. So that’s the one thing that’s good about it,” Borgia says. “However, as a document, as a piece of paper, it is woefully inadequate, first of all, because it provides less protection than the 2006 executive order signed by County Executive Andy Spano which was one of the bases of the legislation that we wrote.”
That legislation is the Immigrant Protection Act, which Astorino vetoed in August. In his veto message, Astorino said the Act “violates federal law, infringes upon long-established principles of law enforcement cooperation, and jeopardizes millions in federal public safety grants.”
“The Immigrant Protection Act or so-called, as they have called it, but it’s really a sanctuary county bill, I vetoed and that veto will be sustained next week if they take that vote,” says Astorino. “They don’t have the votes to override it.”
Borgia questions how Astorino can make such a prediction about Monday’s vote. However, if there are not enough votes for a veto override, Borgia says she will reintroduce the legislation. Borgia believes there should be a law on the books rather than an executive order.
“I think this is a political move,” Borgia says. “And I think, unfortunately, it’s one of those things where you can give with one hand and take away with the next hand one day after Election Day should he win re-election.”
Astorino, who ran for governor in 2014, is seeking a third term as county executive. Borgia believes Astorino intended to reassure immigrants and make them feel safe. However, she says the Immigrant Protection Act clearly delineates how to follow federal law whereas the executive order adds to what she calls murkiness at the federal level. Borgia says the Immigrant Protection Act was introduced in February following President Trump’s actions on immigration and the belief that the 2006 executive order needed to be codified. Republican Board of Legislators Minority Leader John Testa of Peekskill says the new executive order strikes a balance between the concerns of law enforcement and the immigrant community. Members of the Hudson Valley arm of the Building Service Workers Union call the order a smokescreen and urge legislators to override Astorino’s veto of the Immigrant Protection Act.