New Paltz, Kingston Accept Refugees

Shortly after the declaration of Kingston as a sanctuary city, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday, Jan. 27 that threatens the withholding of federal funds for any city that does not enforce federal immigration law.

The executive order states in order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. 

Trump said in the executive order that, “the United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.”

Being a sanctuary city, which has policies designated to avoiding the persecution of undocumented immigrants, directly violates the order signed by the Trump administration.

The Common Council of the city of Kingston adopted a resolution to become a designated sanctuary city on Tuesday, Jan. 10 with a 5-3 majority.

Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinto explained that the lack of funding might not even  affect the city. 

“There are a lot of unwritten policies. Being a sanctuary city doesn’t necessarily mean there are no ramifications,” Tinto said.

When discussing the shift to a sanctuary city, Tinto claimed that nothing will change in how his police department handles legal situations due to the fact that they didn’t ask detainees’ immigration status beforehand.

“This resolution is only memorializing- it just reinforces that Kingston is a welcoming community,” Tinto said. 

New Paltz,  while not officially designated a sanctuary city, follows the same practice regarding immigration law. According to New Paltz Police Chief Joseph Snyder, in regards to the possibility of New Paltz becoming a sanctuary municipality, it wouldn’t change the way the police department follows protocol.

“We don’t currently investigate immigration issues just for the purpose of checking resident status,” Snyder said.

When dealing with a subject that is arrested for a felony and it appears that they are not here under legal channels, the police department would make notification to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to them being involved or investigated related to a Felony, not strictly for status of citizenship. 

New Paltz Police Department has not had reason to contact ICE in years, according to New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez.

New Paltz is what Bettez refers to as a de facto sanctuary city. 

“We follow the policies that were placed under the Obama administration. There isn’t a big push for our department to start doing the federal department’s job and begin deporting people,” Bettez said.

Bettez stated that New Paltz would push back if given direct orders to begin enforcing immigration law.

“This town does not and will not buy into racism or hatred,” Bettez said.

Recently, the village and town boards have amended a non-binding memorializing resolution that was originally crafted and passed in March of 2016. The resolution was submitted by New Paltz resident William Weinstein and passed unanimously. 

The process began as a direct response to the mass fleeing of refugees from Aleppo; residents put together an online petition in which the idea of the resolution had been tossed around and has been since amended to include people of all ethnicities, not just specifically one group of people.

Additionally, the New Paltz Village and Town councils jointly declared a resolution in which the town will work side by side with Church World Services in the hopes of resettling refugees in New Paltz.

Every refugee will be required to undergo a security vetting process that is deemed lengthy, extremely detailed and safe. The process will take anywhere from 18 to 24 months and will involve multiple law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers admited he doesn’t foresee the town and village making New Paltz a de jure sanctuary city. 

“The term is a non binding memorializing resolution. It doesn’t necessarily have teeth but there is value in articulating priorities. I believe we do that already,” Rogers said.