A thorny national subject became the subject of debate among Yates County Legislators Monday with the introduction of a resolution opposing a State Senate Bill prohibiting detention of individuals based only on the violation of federal immigration laws.
In spite of remarks from eight county residents objecting, nine legislators supported the resolution which opposes making New York a “sanctuary state.” Although he presented the resolution as chairman of the Government Operations Committee, District II Legislator Timothy Dennis opposed it, and even supported a motion to pull it from the floor.
Saying he was personally “very torn,” Dennis explained he presented the resolution because it’s his duty as chairman of the committee. “This is a really difficult topic that I don’t think we’re going to adequately address it,” he said.
The first legislator to speak out against the resolution was Bill Holgate of District IV, whose comments drew applause from the gallery when he called the resolution pointless, and said while he does not support sanctuary states, “We do need immigrant workers. We need to have support for these workers.”
District I Legislator Tim Cutler said “The federal immigration system has been broken and it needs to be fixed at the federal level.” Saying he supported pulling the resolution from the agenda, he added, “Let’s get on with our business.” He later said creating a “sanctuary state” is only a political statement.
Vice Chair Leslie Church of District III said, “I support legal immigration and our immigration policy needs to be reformed. I support sending this to the governor.”
Ed Bronson of District I said he feels people need to come to this country according to the laws that are on the books today. “We took an oath to uphold the constitution.”
The final comment came from Chairman Douglas Paddock, who said, before casting his yes vote, “I’m not sure that a vote one way or the other is going to impact anything at the state level.”
With the vote, a copy of the resolution will be sent to Gov. Cuomo, and a laundry list of senators and assembly members.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, only one person — Jack Prendergast, Yates County Republican Chairman — spoke in favor of the resolution. He predicted if New York State becomes a Sanctuary State, the county would see “huge increases” in Social Services spending.
One woman who opposed the resolution pointed out that the Yates County Sheriff’s Department’s policy is to not inquire about an individual’s immigration status. That is the official policy of the New York State Police as well, according to an executive memo issued by Cuomo. However, that did not deter a trooper from detaining a long time farm worker two years ago. The man has since been deported to Mexico.
Vincent Feucht said, “We all want safe, legal immigration, but this resolution is pointless, powerless, and petty. The immigration system is broken, and we don’t need to lay the blame on the people who are working on our farms. Let’s not give our farmers a disadvantage.”
Tracy Mitrano, who is challenging Rep. Tom Reed for a Congressional seat in the 2020 election, urged the legislature to not pass the resolution because it’s an issue that must be resolved at the federal level.
Dixon Zorovich also encouraged opposition, saying, “Here in Yates County we have actual problems. There is a lot of legislation at the state level that can affect Yates County. This isn’t one that should be a priority.”
Dennis withdrew a resolution that opposed the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act which would permit undocumented individuals to obtain a New York driver’s license.
Other business on the legislature’s agenda included:
• Occupancy Tax Hearing: The legislators scheduled a public hearing for 1:10 p.m. July 8 on the renewal of the local law that established the Occupancy Tax in Yates County. The law must be renewed every three years.
• Electric vehicle charging, horse shelter: With District II legislators Rick Willson and Terry Button abstaining, the legislators authorized Paddock to sign an agreement with Penn Yan Public Library to operate and maintain an electric charging station to serve two parking spaces in the library’s parking lot. The county will also contribute half the cost, up to $2,342.50 toward the construction of a horse sheltered parking structure.
• No Trespassing: The legislators unanimously agreed to protect 16 county owned properties with no trespassing signs.