Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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Newburgh declares sanctuary city status

The overflow crowd was passionately and almost unanimously in support of the resolution

NEWBURGH – The Newburgh City Council declared the city a “fair and welcoming city,” essentially, announcing itself as a city with sanctuary status.

The resolution was adopted following a lengthy public comment period with residents voicing their support for the rights of all people.

Councilwoman Karen Mejia, who had been credited with bringing the resolution to the council, said the language of “Fair and Welcoming City” was chosen deliberately and not for reasons to avoid the threat of defunding by the Trump administration.

“It outlines the difference between criminal and civic immigration deportations, which I think helps alleviate a lot of the fear that families were undergoing; but, it’s essentially the sanctuary policies of what we will use our limited resources, here in the City of Newburgh, what our police department will, and will not, do,” said Mejia. “Again, we will enforce the law around criminal immigration deportation cases, but everything else we’re leaving. We have the option to do it, according to the Attorney General’s guidelines and we’re following those.”

That means the city’s police department has agreed not to become involved in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cases and will be keeping their enforcement within their own locale. They will also continue to employ the policy of refraining from unnecessarily inquiring about documentation status, so individuals without documentation will not have to fear reporting emergencies, or crimes.

Lizette, a local city resident, said she believes the city will become a better place, now that undocumented residents don’t have to fear leaving their homes and reporting crimes.

“This just reaffirms to them that it’s ok. If you see something, say something,” she said. “This is what the city’s about. In order to bring the city back to become a great city, like it was, we need to be able to report things and speak up, and say without feeling fear that, ‘Well, they’re going to ask me for my documents and I don’t have them, so I shouldn’t say anything’.”   

Undocumented residents in the city now have a promise in writing that, at least locally, they will be protected from having their lives immediately uprooted, and upon leaving Monday’s meeting, were all given documents of their rights, so they know what those rights are.


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