IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- In the age of fear for many immigrants, the Irvington Village Board voted unanimously Monday to uphold a resolution that prevents village police from enforcing federal immigration laws.
Mayor Brian Smith said a similar policy has been in effect for more than 40 years in the police department.
Although he said the resolution doesn't designate Irvington as a "sanctuary city," he wants residents and visitors to know that Irvington is a welcoming place.
"I think there is too much negative connotation with the term sanctuary city. We prefer to think of ourselves, as we always have, as a welcoming community to all," Smith said. "Now we are a welcoming community with a very clear policy on how we treat immigrants and inquiries from federal law enforcement on immigration."
Smith highlight two main reasons for passing the new policy:
- Immigration law is not something our police officers deal with on a regular basis but developments in Washington D.C. might mean that they will be dealing with it more frequently. We wanted to have a clear policy so our police department could respond promptly and professionally to any requests from the federal government.
- We wanted all undocumented residents, visitors, and workers to know they can contact the Irvington Police Department without fear, regardless of their immigration status. By formally and publicly passing the policy we hope that all of our residents will be comfortable interacting with our wonderful police department.
"One of the great things about Irvington is its professional and caring police department," Smith said. "I am extremely proud of the relationship our department has with students in our schools - I am hopeful that our policy will allow them to have a similar relationship with our undocumented neighbors and friends."
Smith also said the safety of residents is always the top priority and sees the policy as a way to increase safety.
"Additionally, by empowering our undocumented residents and visitors to speak to our police department freely without fear, an important group can assist law enforcement officers to do their job even better," he added.
Smith said he believes the federal government has allowed the issue of immigration to get worse for decades - under presidents of both parties.
"While Americans enjoyed the benefit of inexpensive labor, we did not work on giving honest, hardworking immigrants (the vast majority of immigrants) a viable path to citizenship," Smith said.
Their lack of money and the associated lack of power meant they were stuck - all the while they have been adding to society and the economy as well as starting families, Smith added.
"Often their children are American citizens, it will be a true tragedy if we were to split up these families because we cannot think of a viable path to citizenship," he said. "I hope Washington addresses the bigger issue and does not focus on the deportation of 11 million people. A deportation that, in my opinion, would have a very damaging effect on our economy - not to mention the cost of something on that scale."
More than 6,500 people live in Irvington, including many immigrants who had voiced their concerns regarding how new national laws could impact their lives.