The Westchester County Board of Legislators is targeting its upcoming August board meeting for a final vote on the Immigrant Protection Act.
Legislators of the Democratic caucus had been hopeful for a vote on the act at the board’s meeting on July 17, though those plans were ultimately shelved.
Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, an Ossining Democrat, said that while she was “quite disappointed” in the lack of a vote, she understood that some of her colleagues needed more time to review the legislation.
“As long as we all understand that this is a matter that is too important to let go for much longer, and we will have a definitive vote at our next board meeting on August 7,” she said.
Introduced by the board’s Democratic caucus in February, the Immigrant Protection Act prevents Westchester County from using any of its resources to assist in federal investigations based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
The board aims to reach an agreement on the language of the legislation prior to the final vote next month.
“It’s a very important measure given what’s happening in the larger community, what’s happening in the Westchester community and the concerns that many of us here have as representatives and as citizens of Westchester County,” said Chairman and Legislator Michael B. Kaplowitz.
The act follows a model laid out by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman aimed at protecting immigrant communities. The model provisions clarify that local law enforcement can limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement activities in several ways: by refusing to enforce federal nonjudicial civil immigration warrants; by denying federal requests to hold uncharged individuals in custody more than 48 hours; by limiting access of federal agents to individuals currently in custody; and by limiting information-gathering that will be used exclusively for federal immigration enforcement.
“This bill does not prohibit the county from complying with federal orders,” said Legislator Ben Boykin, a White Plains Democrat. “It’s a bill that allocates Westchester County taxpayers’ resources and personnel to be used strictly for Westchester County purposes.”
The Immigration Protection Act also codifies an executive order issued by former Democratic County Executive Andrew Spano in 2006, which put a system in place regarding immigration enforcement.
“I’m really looking forward to having a piece of legislation that will protect Westchester County residents, as well as set a tone for Westchester County so that we understand that the politics of fear have no business here in Westchester,” Borgia said.
Republican Legislator James Maisano said the board aims to spend the following weeks prior to the upcoming meeting working to improve the law, adding that both sides of the aisle are committed to an August vote.
“There will be no further delays,” Maisano said. “The vote is August 7.”
The act would require the approval of nine of the 17 members of the board in order to be approved. However, board Democrats are concerned that County Executive Robert Astorino would veto the legislation if it passes. To override his veto, the bill would need the approval of 12 board members.
The county Board of Legislators is composed of nine Democrats, seven Republicans and one Conservative.