Citing threats to public safety, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed a bill to set forth a policy on immigration enforcement that had previously passed through the county Board of Legislators by a 10-5 vote earlier this month.
According to Astorino, the bill would have put Westchester at odds with federal law enforcement agencies, ultimately leaving both legal and undocumented residents unprotected under the new law. “Unfortunately, it became a very political bill that jeopardizes public safety, and I don’t want to put people at risk,” he said.
Known as the Immigration Protection Act, the legislation piggybacked a current executive order by former County Executive Andy Spano, a Democrat, which Astorino has now pledged to repeal, too.
On Aug. 16, Astorino said he will rescind the former county executive’s order relating to undocumented immigrants which has been in place since 2006. According to Astorino, after further research, it was discovered that the existing order also compromises the county’s relationship with federal law enforcement agencies.
In Westchester government, the incumbent county executive can legally repeal any executive order made by one of his predecessors.
The latest immigration bill, which was sponsored in February by Majority Leader Catherine Borgia, an Ossining Democrat, came in response to Republican President Donald Trump’s nationwide initiative to deport undocumented immigrants, and would have prevented the county’s emergency services from aiding the federal government in investigations made on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and national origin.
Borgia said the Democratic Caucus still plans to hold a vote to override Astorino’s veto, which came as a way to prevent Westchester from becoming a “sanctuary” county; one that limits its cooperation with the national government’s effort to enforce immigration law.
“While the veto today was expected, it is disappointing nonetheless,” she said. “The county executive’s words and actions, in line with his friend President Trump, will not stop our efforts.”
Astorino also came under fire from Board of Legislators Chairman Mike Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, who called the veto “ill-advised, wrong and insensitive to the most vulnerable in our society.”
But in order to override Astorino’s veto, lawmakers will need a supermajority vote, which seems unlikely at the moment.
As of press time, two Republicans lawmakers, David Gelfarb, of Rye Brook, and Jim Maisano, of New Rochelle, support the legislation, which would prohibit law enforcement officials from honoring requests made by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents, which do not give rise to reasonable grounds for detaining individuals.
Legislator Lyndon Williams, a Mount Vernon Democrat, was absent from the last vote.
According to Joe Sgammato, the press secretary for the Democratic Caucus, constituents in Republican districts are pressing their elected officials to change their minds on the bill; however, there is currently no indication from Republican leadership that there will be any further support for the bill, leaving the proposal one vote short of a supermajority.