In a City Council Meeting on the evening of February 21, 2017, several citizens of the City of Beacon delivered prepared statements asking the City Council to consider adopting Sanctuary City Status to protect immigrants. Beacon has a large Hispanic population, and in the Beacon City School District, 28% of students are Hispanic, according to Student Diversity Demographics from the Beacon City School District.
The statements from citizens were delivered during the Public Comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, during which members of the public were allowed to speak at the podium for up to 5 minutes per person, for a total of 30 minutes per session. The followup to that discussion will be this evening, Monday, February 27, at a Workshop at 7 pm at 1 Municipal Plaza, during which Sanctuary City is on the Workshop's Agenda of topics to discuss. Six other issues will be covered, including the Beacon Parks and Recreation Department's Summer Camp, and a renewed contract for the Beacon Flea. All Agendas can be found here on the City's website.
Background of Local Immigration Issues and Sanctuary Cities
The day of the City Council meeting, the federal Department of Homeland Security released new rules that detail how the department plans to enforce the president's executive orders on immigration and border security. In those rules is a program that goes by the name 287(g), that, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website, is "one of ICE's top partnership initiatives, allows a state or local law enforcement entity to enter into a partnership with ICE, under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), in order to receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions."
In addition, according to the ICE website, "This authorizes the Director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of ICE officers."
According to an NPR report on the new rules: “These rules specifically exempt DACA (aka Dreamers) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. So the Dreamers have gotten a reprieve here, but it appears that their parents and potentially millions of others have not,” says the NPR report.
Clarification on intended enforcement has been difficult, especially since the White House’s Spanish website was taken down when the new president was inaugurated. (According to Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, it was taken down temporarily so that it could be updated.)
Sanctuary Status vs Safety Resolution
The president, during his campaign, made a promise to cancel federal funding made to Sanctuary Cities in his signed "Contract With The American Voter" PDF, indicating there will be future implications for officially designated Sanctuary Cities. As of 2015, according to CNN, there are 200 state and local jurisdictions that have policies calling for "not honoring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests," according to then-director of ICE Sarah Saldana in a CNN article. Examples of federal funding can be seen here at CivilRights.org.
Beacon citizens requested Sanctuary City Status, with one citizen requesting that a resolution be made, if an official status is not passed. The citizen alluded to Ithaca, NY, that voted to designate itself a Safe City in a resolution.
According to an article in IthacaVoice.com, the resolution would "reaffirm Ithaca as a 'safe city' and extend protections already provided to refugees to people who are undocumented 'so that all may live without fear that forcible deportation may result from everyday interactions with City law enforcement, staff, committee members or elected officials, allowing all to live fully and productively as members of the Ithaca community.'"
Beacon Police Department's Message of Reassurance
During the City Council meeting, Mayor Casale read a statement from the Police Department's Chief of Police. That statement can be found in its entirety here as a link from the February 27th Workshop's Agenda. The statement includes this portion:
"It is not the practice of the Beacon Police Department to inquire as to one’s immigration status or engage in activities solely for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws. The Beacon Police Department does not have the authority nor the desire to stop or arrest individuals based on their immigration status.
"While the Beacon Police Department interacts, and cooperates with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies on a regular basis, interactions with agencies such as ICE have been few and far between. Presence of immigration enforcement in the City of Beacon has been limited to merely a few instances in decades. That being said, based on current events, the administration of the Beacon Police Department recognizes the sensitivity of this issue and any requests by immigration authorities for information or assistance will be thoroughly vetted."
Monday Night Workshop to Discuss Beacon's Sanctuary City Possibility
While a Workshop is open to the public to attend, the public cannot participate in it, unless called on by the City Council. The Workshop will meet at 7 pm at 1 Municipal Plaza, Beacon, NY.
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