With overwhelming support from testifying residents to bolster them, New Paltz Town Council members voted unanimously last Thursday to pass a law which formally limits cooperation by town police officers with agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The law will have little practical effect, as it reflects a longstanding police policy.
Responding to criticism that such a law would result in more crime, several people testified that those in the country without visas are afraid to call the police, resulting in it being easier to get away with crimes against them right now. Invariably, residents spoke about how one does not sneak into the United States to obtain government benefits; rather, it is extreme danger or poverty in their home countries which drive them to risk breaking existing American law.
“There are people who are terrified in this town,” said high school student Alejandra Guzman, who explained that such fear keeps them from coming to public hearings, as well, for fear of being arrested.
Rebecca Rotzler said that she’s not convinced that federal immigration laws are even appropriate. “If you’re Native American,” which she is, the entire notion is seen quite differently.
Leo Beaumont needed to be lifted up to the mike by his mother to make his comment, as he is but seven years old. “I want this law because it is kind for others,” he told board members.
Deputy Supervisor Dan Torres again noted that the Tenth Amendment, which gives to the states those powers not enumerated for the federal government, is why threats to withdraw funding to municipalities which don’t have immigration-enforcement policies on the books would go nowhere.
Council member Marty Irwin said he was nevertheless “conflicted” about the law, because even if freezing funding is illegal, as much as $145,000 could be delayed as the matter is litigated. He polled audience members, asking if they would be willing to pay more as a consequence of passing the law; their response was resoundingly positive. Supervisor Neil Bettez also stressed that at this time, the town is receiving no federal money whatsoever.
While resident Lou Cariola was concerned about the impact on police officers, his was the lone voice of dissent which was swept aside by a rising tide of home rule.