New Castle Reaffirms Policy on Handling Immigration Status

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New Castle officials have reaffirmed the town’s policy and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s guidelines to refrain from asking about a person’s immigration status unless an individual has been arrested.

With increased attention being paid to what role local police and government should play to enforce federal immigration laws in light of tougher talk on the matter in Washington, the town board met earlier this month with Police Chief Charles Ferry to discuss the issue.

Supervisor Robert Greenstein said there is no change to what the town’s policy has been, but the board and Ferry wanted to inform the community that if an undocumented person has been the victim of a crime or has witnessed a crime, the New Castle Police Department will not delve into that individual’s status.

“That’s the message we want to send because at the end of the day because at the end of the day that’s going to make us all safer,” Greenstein said.

Too often, immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, are fearful to step forward and volunteer information because they would then attract attention from law enforcement. Therefore, the opportunity to collect important information to solve a crime and apprehend a suspect can be lost.

Ferry said if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contacts his department for assistance on a matter, the New Castle police do not initiate actions relating to immigration.

“We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status,” Ferry said. “We want people to speak up and not feel intimidated to talk to our officers.”

As part of its public education effort, the town is distributing flyers around town that contain the heading “Build Trust Reduce Crime.” The message will also be included on officers’ business cards. Half of the flyer is in English and the other half is in Spanish.

The town’s existing policy closely mirrors Schneiderman’s report issued to all police chiefs and sheriffs in the state on Jan. 19, “Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions.”

Also within the past two weeks, the board sent a letter to state Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) voicing its displeasure with two Senate bills that he is supporting.

One proposed law, S6253, would allow the state to monitor individuals seeking asylum within its borders. The other measure, S3848, would require cities that issue forms of identification to maintain the information application and submit it to the Department of Homeland Security.

Bill S6253 would also require residents who entered New York as refugees to register with the state. Resettlement agencies would have to monitor and report on the activities of these refugees as well.

The letter to Murphy, signed by Greenstein and supported by the full board, stated that immigration is a federal issue and the existing vetting process involving the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security is extensive, taking about two years for a refugee to enter the United States.

Furthermore, the second proposed legislation would be “divisive and counter-productive” likely resulting in a sharp decrease in government-issued identification, which people use to identify themselves to report crimes, open bank accounts or visit their children’s schools.

“In our view, the enactment of new legislation at the state level which duplicates existing federal procedures or that ultimately makes citizens less safe would be irresponsible and short-sighted,” the town’s letter stated.




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