BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Amid concerns from some residents about how President Donald Trump will handle immigration, the Bedford Town Board unanimously approved a symbolic resolution at a recent meeting.
“I have listened carefully and dispassionately to all views, and I have come to the conclusion that it is the moral obligation of the town board to adopt this statement and assure the community regarding the policies of the town,” Bedford Town Supervisor Chris Burdick said at the March 7 meeting.
The resolution was passed after residents reached out for one, Burdick noted.
The resolution, which was also partially in response to biased activities in the region, condemns bigotry towards people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bedford, particularly in the Bedford Hills hamlet, has a sizable Latino immigrant population, including an unknown portion who entered the country illegally. People in the latter category, who are also called "undocumented," have been a source of anger for the president and his supporters.
The resolution does not outline any shifts in policy. Instead, it merely reiterates how Bedford Police already operate when it comes to immigration enforcement.
Police do not go out of their way to ask people about their immigration status, Bedford Police Chief Melvin Padilla said at the meeting. The issue only comes up, Padilla added, if police arrest and detain someone on unrelated charges. Once in custody, a fingerprint scan and database search may turn up an order from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the chief added. Only in that case, Padilla explained, would town police reach out to federal authorities.
The police chief added, however, that his department will not "obstruct" federal investigations, as not cooperating can undermine reciprocity that local police have when they need help with their own investigations.
“We will cooperate with reasonable requests just as federal and other local law-enforcement agencies comply or cooperate with our requests," Padilla said.
Town Attorney Joel Sachs told the audience that the town does not enforce immigration laws, as doing so is a federal responsibility. Additionally, Sachs, citing case law, said that the 10th Amendment to the constitution prevents the federal government from compelling towns to enforce it.
The board's meeting was filled mostly with supporters of the resolution, who urged town lawmakers to adopt it.
Erika Pierce said she wanted to say, “how proud of I am of this board and of this town, and how happy I am that this is my home.”
Pierce then read a letter from a neighbor, Alicia Sandberg, in support of the resolution.
“Most of the people who are undocumented in our community are and have been assets to this town," Sandberg stated. "They take care of our children at our homes and they work in our restaurants.”
Sandberg added that undocumented immigrants who fear deportation after contacting local police will not call to report crimes, which in turn would lead to more overall crime in town.
Resident Bruce Yablon, who goes out on calls for the Katonah Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps (KBHVAC), expressed similar concerns, arguing that fear of calling (including dialing 911) could undermine responses to emergencies such as fires and gas leaks.
“We don't want people to hesitate.”
Sunilda Vasquez, who is one of the town's immigrant residents, said that kids in her neighborhood are afraid to go outside and play because they fear that their parents, who undocumented, could be taken away while they are visible with them.
“Kids don't play anymore,” she said.
Suzy Weiner, a senior at Fox Lane High School and a co-class president for her grade, urged the board to vote in favor of the resolution. Talking with Daily Voice, Weiner said there were instances of Latino students being bullied, which she attributed to the presidential election. Since then, however, Weiner noted that the bullying has "simmered down now."
A small group of attendees voiced their opposition to the resolution.
Resident Scott Parker said, “It looks around here like all my neighbors are just a bunch of sore losers that lost an election. That's the way I feel.”
The resolution won unanimous support from a board that is made up of two Democrats - they are Burdick and Councilwoman MaryAnn Carr - and two Republicans - they are Deputy Supervisor Lee Roberts and Councilman Don Scott.
“I feel that every person in this community should be able to live without fear," Carr said.
“They deserve to live in peace without fear of being detained or deported simply because they are undocumented," Roberts said.
Additionally, Roberts expressed frustration with how some residents have treated her due to being a Republican, and noted that she has a history of supporting immigrants.
“I personally have been bullied and threatened and called a Nazi because I am a Republican," she said. "It is painful to have worked and served in public office for over 21 years and to have volunteered on numerous efforts supporting immigrants, including on the board of the Community Center, and still be accused of being anti-immigrant.”
Scott, who noted that he has had similar experiences as Roberts due to his party affiliation, said the resolution is an “affirmation of what we already do and what all of us up here have lived both in terms of word and deed for our entire career in public service.”
Trump is also an estate owner in Bedford, having owned the Seven Springs property near Byram Lake since 1995.