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County Executive Rob Astorino Vows to Veto Legislation to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

astorinoA bipartisan bill to protect immigrants in Westchester County was passed by a vote of 10-5 by the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Monday August 7.

The new law would protect the confidential information of all residents, regardless of their immigration status and ensure that the county does not work as immigration agents. The bill would prevent the county from providing federal immigration authorities with money or equipment when trying to round people up solely because of their immigration status.

The bill would bar county police from communicating with federal authorities solely on civil immigration matters. Immigration authorities would need a judicial warrant to question people in the county jail and it allows targeted immigrants to get legal counsel.

The bill was the first of its kind to be passed by a county in New York State.

Though immigrants and immigrants' rights advocates cheered the passage of the bill, County Executive Rob Astorino has vowed to veto it and he has ten days to do so.

In a press release issued by his office on Monday, Astorino said he objected to the bill because, "it would jeopardize public safety, particularly those in our immigrant communities, would cost taxpayers millions of dollars and would be nearly impossible to enforce." He feared that the county would lose up to $13 million in federal funds as it would become a "sanctuary county" ... at odds with the federal government."

Astorino was joined by Hector Lopez, President of the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association who said the new law would endanger law abiding residents and provide safe haven for undocumented immigrants who have broken the law. He said, "The passing of this Act opens the doors for undocumented immigrants involved in criminal activity, such as the ruthless MS-13 gang, to migrate to Westchester and prey on other immigrants, many of whom will not report crimes committed against them for fear of retribution... This act is placing handcuffs on our law enforcement officers, not the criminals."

County Legislator Ben Boykin who represents Scarsdale co-sponsored the bill. He urged residents to support the legislation, saying, "The fact is, no matter how much fear mongering those opposed say and no matter how loudly they say it, this legislation simply ensures county law enforcement focuses their attention and resources on protecting public safety in Westchester - while complying fully with federal law. The federal government has plenty of resources to use on federal issues, our County coffers are already stretched far too thin. It is now time for the County Executive to do the right thing for all of those who call our community home instead of cozying up to the anti-immigrant agenda coming from Washington. Now we need YOUR help again - call the County Executive's office and tell him you support this common sense resource allocation and public safety measure."

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