Giving Back

Somers Town Board Takes No Action on ‘Sanctuary City’ Petition


SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers remains a “welcoming community,” Supervisor Rick Morrissey declared last week, but he said the town does not need to formally ratify that diverse embrace.

“I do not believe it’s in the best interest of our residents for the town board to codify procedures that frankly do not impact our local government operations,” the supervisor said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Morrissey responded to a petition, submitted April 6, that called on Somers to adopt safeguards for those living or working here illegally. So-called “sanctuary cities” generally do not cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented residents.

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Morrissey said that the status of undocumented aliens is not Somers’ concern. “Immigration enforcement is not a local issue,” he said. “Municipal police departments in New York, including the Somers PD, are mandated to enforce local and state laws. Immigration is a federal law, which does not fall under the town’s purview.”

A handful of residents at the meeting, some of them alerted to the petition only by an article in that day’s issue of The Somers Record, addressed the board. By turns, they called for adoption of the current petition, consideration of a new one and issuing—as Morrissey’s statement did—a message of inclusiveness.

One speaker, Catherine Gallagher of Katonah, hoped the board could revisit the issue after the community had time to digest the petition. She also read a neighbor’s letter to the board urging the town to make it clear that “our emergency services personnel will deliver services without inquiring as to immigration status.”

Assistant Fire Chief Jon Mackey, who was among Thursday’s speakers, said, “We definitely do not ask immigration status.”

And Morrissey said, “Our police department does not do that.”

But Mackey also noted that the Trump administration has threatened to cut federal aid to sanctuary cities. “We’re applying for two federal grants as we speak,” he said.

Adopting “a term like sanctuary town could hurt us in the long run,” Mackey said, and was unnecessary.

“The town is already a very welcoming place and we don’t need to codify with a term such as ‘sanctuary.’ I don’t think a resolution is needed to prove that to anybody,” Mackey said.

Another speaker, Maggie Plummer, pointed out that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued guidance in January on local adoption of sanctuary policies. He said, “Several states and hundreds of municipalities—including New York City and other local governments throughout New York State—have enacted sanctuary laws and policies that prohibit or substantially restrict the involvement of state and local law enforcement agencies with federal immigration enforcement.”

Locally, Bedford and Lewisboro have adopted sanctuary-like protections but did not explicitly use that politically charged term.

Michael Blum, who had presented the Somers petition at the town board’s April work session, told the members Thursday that he would eliminate the controversial reference. “I don’t think we need to use the word ‘sanctuary city,’” he said.

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