NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— The North Salem Town Board is considering a resolution on immigration.
Similar measures have been adopted in recent months in several Westchester communities, including Mamaroneck, Bedford and Irvington where the municipalities vowed that local police will not enforce federal immigration laws and round up undocumented immigrants.
During its work session on March 15, board members began debating a measure taking a cue from the Town of Bedford. Bedford passed a resolution recently that condemned anti-Semitism and racial divisiveness in the town, and also addressed illegal immigration.
The Bedford resolution came after swastikas were found scrawled in a bathroom at John Jay High School in Lewisboro in February, the fourth such incident of anti-Semitic vandalism in the town since December.
However, unlike the measure passed in Bedford, the North Salem resolution is not seeking to make a political statement, board members said. Deputy Supervisor Peter Kamenstein called it, “a timely opportunity to reaffirm our principles in North Salem.”
“I’m sure we all probably know people who are not well-documented but who bust their butts working for people who are residents of our town. We want them and we want anybody else who comes to our town, to feel they are under the radar,” he said, adding, “Our principles are not political.
The resolution recently passed in Bedford specifically cites President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration, something North Salem lawmakers are seeking to avoid.
Councilwoman Lisa Douglas wants it made clear that North Salem is not a sanctuary city.
“I have no problem protecting ours (undocumented immigrants) but I don’t want the word to get out, oh move to North Salem,” Douglas said.
Supervisor Warren Lucas agreed, saying the town wishes to clarify its policies for protecting the safety of its residents.
“No one is asking us to do this,” he said, “I’m sure we have illegal aliens. I want them to at least feel safe that they can call and get the police or emergency services if needed.”
Lucas said that the driving force behind the resolution is to reassure undocumented immigrants that North Salem police are not mounting an effort to “hunt down” those in the town illegally, and instead stressed that actions are orchestrated by federal authorities.
Aronchick agreed with the intent of the resolution.
“There are some in some instances who are afraid to call the police, who are afraid to call fire. (for fear of deportation), he noted.
A preliminary draft of the North Salem resolution reads:
The Town Board of the Town of North Salem wants to affirmatively state that we always have been and continue to be a community that protects the rights of all of its residents regardless of their national origin.
Our police department practices are designed to promote mutual respect and to maintain an open dialog with our community. This is why we believe that immigration enforcement is not the role of the town. The town will, however, coordinate with federal authorities to apprehend those individuals, regardless of their immigration status, that threaten the safety of our community.
The Town of North Salem Police Department has not in the past, nor will it, inquire about an individual’s immigration status. Enforcement of federal immigration law is the responsibility of the federal government and its various enforcement agencies.
“What you have written represents North Salem well,” said Douglas.
Lucas forwarded the draft resolution to Town Councilman Martin Aronchick, who agreed to make modifications to its wording before it’s voted on as a resolution in the upcoming weeks.