Making good on his promise from last week, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino vetoed the recently approved Immigrant Protection Act on Wednesday.
The act, which was passed by the Westchester County Board of Legislators in a 10-5 vote on Aug. 7, would prevent Westchester County from using any of its resources to assist in federal investigations based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or national origin.
In his veto, Astorino said the act would designate Westchester as a “sanctuary county,” which he said could cost taxpayers nearly $13 million in federal funding.
Sanctuary jurisdictions are those that have ordinances or practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sanctuary jurisdictions run the risk of losing access to certain federal law enforcement grants if they prohibit officials from communicating with ICE.
“Washington needs to get its act together. In the meantime, Westchester will continue to protect all of its residents,” Astorino said. “However, if you end up in our jail for committing a crime, and you’re not here legally, we’re not providing a sanctuary for you.”
Majority Leader Catherine Borgia said that while Astorino’s veto was expected, it was disappointing nonetheless.
“The rhetoric we have heard from the county executive is blatant fear-mongering and full of falsehoods,” she said. “The county executive’s words and actions – in line with his friend President Trump – will not stop our efforts.”
The Immigrant Protection 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.
“The county executive’s veto of the recently passed Immigration Protection Act is ill advised, wrong and insensitive to the most vulnerable in our society,” Board of Legislators Chairman Michael B. Kaplowitz said. “It endangers public safety by discouraging certain individuals from reporting gang behavior and other criminality to law enforcement.”
The 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.
Introduced in February, the bill’s language was the subject of months of back-and-forth negotiations between Republican and Democratic members of the board.
At the Aug. 7 meeting, all present members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the bill and were joined by Republican legislators David Gelfarb and James Maisano. Two legislators – one Democrat and one Republican – were absent.
However, immediately following the announcement of the bill’s passage, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino said he planned to veto the legislation.
The Board of Legislators, which is composed of nine Democrats, seven Republicans and one Conservative, would need 12 votes in favor of the legislation in order to override the county executive’s veto.
The board’s next regular meeting is on Sept. 25.