The Northern Westchester Examiner

Immigration Resolution Controversy Reignited in Somers

We are part of The Trust Project
Michael Blum discussed his revised resolution calling on the Town of Somers to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants during the June 8 town board meeting.

Even in a revised form, a resolution expressing support for the protection of undocumented immigrants generated controversy in Somers.

Resident Michael Blum came to the June 8 town board meeting with a revised resolution. In April, the town board rejected Blum’s petition calling on the town to become a Sanctuary City.

Blum’s revised resolution stated that it is, “Reaffirming Somers as a welcoming and inclusive township and to continue to have town services operate within their current scope and mandate and provide public reassurance to undocumented immigrants that they continue, as before, to report crimes, fire and emergencies without fear of detention or immigration status identification.”

Reading from a written statement, Blum said he wanted the resolution to be approved by the town board and posted in English and Spanish in all town government buildings, on the town government Web site and on its municipal cable television channel.

Blum, who is an immigrant, addressed the controversy his previous resolution engendered. “To those that felt I was expressing some partisan feelings here, let me repeat, there is no clear legal definition of a Sanctuary City and the concept has been around for hundreds of years,” he said. “The majority, 70 to 80 percent, of undocumented immigrants have been living in the U.S. for over 10 years. That is much longer than the naturalization process requires. I speak from experience here. They are now caught in a Catch 22. Leave the country and you are deported. Apply for naturalization, and you are deported. This is the consequence of kicking the immigration issue down the road, rather than resolving it. These immigrants are living under an understanding – as long as they abide by our laws, pay taxes and conduct themselves as any other American, they can continue living here and share in the American life. Additionally, their children are required to register for the selective service system and are offered a path to citizenship if they serve in the Army. The irony is that if their parents are caught by ICE they, nevertheless, have to be deported while their sons and daughters may be serving abroad.”

“For those who fear of the extent undocumented immigrants commit crime (and this speaks to the intent of the resolution again) all the studies conclude that immigrants are less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates. I say all this because Somers is not that different from other towns where the demographics have changed over the last t10 years,” Blum added.

Blum said his resolution was needed in the current social climate. “Collectively, our actions during this time of heightened divisiveness in our country, (with) selective banning of immigration, banning of war refugees, of increased anti-Semitism (up by 85 percent), Islamophobia, anti-feminism and racism will speak far more than resolutions,” he said. ”At the end of the last meeting, there was a feeling expressed that we, unlike other towns do, suffer from an undercurrent of fear or hate. The admirable actions in our Somers schools are trying to correct the hate and intolerance as seen the in the school, thereby reducing the fear. But the actions of the leadership of this town, on this resolution will hopefully have more meaning for the parents and for those kids that are either painting swastikas, yelling racial epithets or simply making fun of immigrants that do not speak English, let me be clear, I am not condoning their actions but I understand where the source of these acts came from.”

Several residents provided their support to Blum’s resolution during the public comment period of last week’s town board meeting.

Former Councilman Patrick DeSena said it was important for town government to “make a statements’ to support the rights of undocumented immigrants. “It is a major issue in our country,” he said.

Another resident, Patricia Compton, who supported Blum’s resolution, said it was important for the town to consider how non-white people who live in Somers feel. As far as she could see, “There are no people of color” in attendance at last week’s meeting, she said.

Supervisor Rick Morrissey and the other board members who chose to speak on this issue said they were sympathetic to the concept of Blum’s resolution but could not support in full. He said, “I’m in support of 98 percent” of what is in the resolution, but he could not vote for it because of how it relates to law enforcement.

In a follow up e-mail to the Northern Westchester Examiner, Morrissey stated, “’I’ve been on record stating that immigration is a federal issue; that the Somers police department, like all municipal police departments in New York, are authorized to enforce local and state laws; and, that immigration is a federal law, which is the responsibility of the federal government to enforce. At the April meeting, I made it clear that I would not be in support of codifying procedures that do not fall under the town government’s purview.”

“As I stated last night, I am in agreement with much of what’s contained in the new petition; however, still at issue is the wording about detainer requests and policies regarding federal reporting policies,” Morrissey stated. “As a municipality with a part-time police force and no correctional facility, these fall outside of the town’s operational authority. Local communities who have passed similar resolutions, many of which employee full-time police forces, have also not included this language in their statements.”

Morrissey added police and other emergency responders do not ask people what their immigration status is.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.