Westchester County Goes Sanctuary: Are the NYC Suburbs Lost?



On March 12, by a vote of 11-3, the Westchester County, New York, Board of Legislators passed a sweeping sanctuary bill, “Immigrant Protection Act.”   The following Tuesday, March 20, the newly-installed Democrat County Executive George Latimer signed it into law.  This worrisome development suggests a dramatic shift underway: reasonable policies of local cooperation with immigration authorities across the tristate New York City suburbs are under attack.

Of course, New York City itself has had dangerous sanctuary policies since at least the 1980s.  But until recently, the adjoining suburban local governments in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut could mostly be relied on to keep the lawlessness confined within the Big Apple’s city limits.  This now appears to be changing at breakneck speed.

Connecticut passed its sanctuary-state bill back in 2013, the so-called “Trust Act,” HB 6659.  Radical at the time, the bill forbade law enforcement from holding illegal aliens on detainers to be picked up by immigration authorities unless they were convicted felons, suspected terrorists, or had final orders of deportation or removal.  Now, of course, not even five years later, the open-borders crowd has moved so much further to the extreme that law is considered hopelessly moderate, so a new bill was filed in the state legislature this year to adopt the full panoply of sanctuary policies, comparable to Oregon, Illinois, or California.  The bill has since died, but its mere introduction still may bode ill for the future.

New Jersey’s local governments have been a patchwork quilt when it comes to sanctuary policies, but its most extreme pro-sanctuary jurisdictions—places like Newark, Jersey City, and Hoboken—largely cluster close to New York City.  However, New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, makes no secret of the fact that he’d like to change that and turn the whole Garden State into a sanctuary state.

In New York itself, there have been a handful of sanctuary cities, towns and villages in the suburbs for years, but mostly the counties have pushed back and sided with the rule of law: this is particularly important since it’s the counties that run the jails.  After the 2016 election, however, the trickle became a flood: in 2017 alone, more than ten suburban New York municipalities adopted sanctuary policies, whether they adopted the sanctuary label or not.  And Westchester County would have joined them with a previous version of the “Immigrant Protection Act,” but for a veto by Republican former County Executive Rob Astorino.  Troublingly, Latimer ran against Astorino on that specifically, and won.

New York’s two suburban Long Island counties, Nassau and Suffolk, have held out and still honor detainers.  But they’re both already being sued for it.  One has to wonder if they’ll stand firm or they, too, will cave before this apparent sanctuary flood.

New York’s state Senate, the last stopgap against one-party rule in Albany,  recently passed a commendable anti-sanctuary bill, SB 3698, that like SB 4 in Texas, which would reverse the tide of sanctuary jurisdictions  popping up at the local level.  But it was unsurprisingly declared “dead on arrival” in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

It may not be too late, but those committed to public safety and the rule of law in the New York City suburbs should probably be prepared to face an uphill struggle for some time to come.

About Author

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Dave joined FAIR in 2017 after more than ten years as an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County, Florida. His prosecutorial experience covered trial litigation at the misdemeanor and felony levels, drug court and mental health court, and two years as an intake attorney in the juvenile division working closely with law enforcement. Before this, he was a legislative analyst/staff attorney with the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, where he assisted state legislators in ensuring the effectiveness and constitutionality of legislation on a wide variety of subject matter. In both capacities, he often dealt with the interaction of state law and immigration. Dave holds BAs in History and International Relations from American University and a JD from Tulane University Law School.

3 Comments

  1. avatar
    Not Politically Correct on

    They want to make it a sanctuary county to protect their cheap labor-maids and nannies.

  2. avatar
    will Rodgers on

    NYC is crying that MS 13 has a mission to kill police in New York. Then the fools living there and running the state [all dumb Democrats] at the same moment want to make themselves a santuary city. How about sanctuary for the tax paying Americans and foreign born LEGAL citizens. Is that too progressive and idea for the weak minded New Yorkers?