The Westchester County Board of Legislators failed to receive enough votes Monday night to override County Executive Rob Astorino’s veto of the Immigrant Protection Act, a bill that would restrain Westchester from using its resources for immigration enforcement.
Despite supporters filling the meeting with signs stating, “Vote yes on the Immigrant Protection Act,” urging legislators to override the veto, legislators voted 11-6 squashing legislation. The bill needed support from 12 of 17 legislators.
Republicans James Miasano (New Rochelle) and David Gelfarb (Rye) supported the legislation. All nine Democrats in attendance voted for it.
“While we are not surprised by tonight’s outcome, it truly is disappointing for the people of Westchester County,” members of the Democratic Caucus said in a joint statement. “Studies from all over the country show that our immigrant neighbors are less likely to assist local police departments when they feel that it may result in immigration consequences. Upholding the veto makes none of us safer.”
Following President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order restricting travel by refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) introduced the bill in February hoping to reduce fear in Westchester’s immigrant community.
“I was very pleased when the matter did pass and disappointed when it was overridden by the County Executive,” Borgia said.
The Immigrant Protection Act, a measure that would prevent the county from expending resources to assist in federal investigations based on race, gender, religious, ethnicity or national origin, was approved 10-5 by the board on Aug. 7 and was later vetoed by Astorino.
“Our primary function of government is to protect the safety and well-being of residents regardless of their immigration state,” Legislator Ben Boykin (D-White Plains) said. “We must be a welcoming county that welcomes all residents and protects all residents in this county.”
While legislation didn’t pass, Astorino issued an executive order last week stating that county law enforcement will cooperate with federal authorities in investigations and apprehending illegal immigrants involved in criminal activity. The order also prohibits officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status unless they are required by law to do so or investigating illegal activity.
While the order echoes certain stipulations in the Immigrant Protection Act, Astorino assured that Westchester would not become a sanctuary county that hinders law enforcement protocol and provides a safe haven to criminals.
He added that creating a sanctuary county would not comply with federal laws and could put the county at risk of losing upwards of $13 million in federal grants.
Lawmakers who approved the law said the act specifically states that the county would comply with existing federal and state laws.
“This is not a sanctuary city bill,” Borgia said. “We had a lot of compromises to make sure it fully complied with federal immigration policies.”
Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) added that Astorino’s executive order is a failure that needs to be redrafted.
“Like President Trump’s Executive Orders will make America less safe, the County Executive’s Executive Order will do the same for us in Westchester,” members of Democratic Caucus added. “This fight is not over.”