SOMERS, N.Y. – A bid to enlist Somers in the so-called “sanctuary city” movement has gotten a cool, noncommittal official reception.
A petition, asking the town to give some protection against deportation to residents who live or work here illegally, was scheduled for discussion by the town board tonight (April 13). Board members were largely noncommittal last week after an informal presentation by resident Michael Blum at the town board’s work session.
Subsequent requests for comment, in email and telephone interviews, drew less than enthusiastic responses.
“I do not think anything will happen to it,” Deputy Supervisor Thomas A. Garrity Jr. said of the proposed resolution. It would pledge not to ask about “the immigration status of individuals being provided local government services.”
Turning a blind eye to immigration status is a key precept of sanctuary cities, which generally refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in identifying, apprehending or deporting their undocumented residents. Sanctuary city officials argue that such official indifference is necessary to build day-to-day cooperation in the immigrant communities with local government, especially law enforcement.
But Councilman William Faulker argues that “selecting which laws we abide by and which laws we ignore...is inherently unjust and undemocratic.”
As a result, he said, “I will not support Somers becoming a ‘sanctuary city.’”
Councilman Richard G. Clinchy said that while the resolution includes ideals that “virtually all people in Somers would agree with,” it contains “some other parts that may be quite partisan and possibly divisive.”
Councilman Anthony J. Cirieco was not present at the work session.
Sanctuary cities have existed for years, primarily in urban centers like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which shelter large numbers of people who live there illegally. But this year, after President Donald J. Trump vowed more-robust enforcement of immigration laws, including deportations, efforts to extend sanctuary protections gained momentum.
Bedford last month extended those protections to the local level, though the resolution doing so carefully avoided the politically loaded term “sanctuary city.” A similar attempt in North Salem, also skirting talk of sanctuaries, ran into resident protest and a swift decision to shelve the idea, at least for now.
In Somers last week, at a town board work session, Blum presented a petition signed, he said, by almost 100 town residents.
In just over 400 words, the petition calls on Somers “to adopt practices generally considered to be ‘sanctuary city’ policies.” The document’s signers, Blum told the board, were “aware that the governor has already declared ours a sanctuary state.” But, he said, “we are also very aware that many Latinos and Muslims who live here are increasingly and reasonably concerned and frightened for their safety and security.”
At the meeting and in subsequent remarks, town officials took issue with parts of the resolution as well as its accompanying message.
Supervisor Rick Morrissey, in a Friday interview, pushed back on the message’s depiction of an immigrant populace dreading the next knock at the door.
At the meeting, Garrity, a councilman who also serves as deputy supervisor, challenged the residency status of dozens of the petition’s signatories.
Blum had said that perhaps a dozen signatures were those of non-Somers residents; Garrity, saying he had examined the petition online, put the number of non-resident signatures at between 30 and 40. In an email interview the next day, Garrity said, “When looking at a petition with 60 signatures, out of a population approaching 21,000, it really is statistically insignificant.”
Morrissey, in a Friday telephone interview, rejected the suggestion of resident unease over Trump’s immigration crackdown. “There are no people living in fear in the Town of Somers,” Morrissey said.
Clinchy, in an interview, said he supported some of the resolution’s loftier aspirations, such as Somers being “welcoming and inclusive to all.” But, he said, other, more-provocative language veered toward the “unnecessarily partisan” and would have to be modified before he could vote to approve the measure.
”Our job,” he said of the town board, “is to do what’s good for Somers, to protect the people of Somers, and do what’s right for Somers.”