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Republicans in the New York State legislature propose hard-line immigration package

New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt at the Capitol Tuesday with fellow Republican colleagues to introduce legislation meant to combat the increasing number of migrants in the state.
Samantha Simmons
New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt at the Capitol Tuesday with fellow Republican colleagues to introduce legislation meant to combat the increasing number of migrants in the state.

Minority Republicans in the New York state legislature are proposing legislation meant to curb what they call an unsustainable influx of migrants in the country illegally.

Sponsored by Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblymember Jarett Gandolfo of Suffolk County, the legislation would require law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration officials on the arrest or conviction of non-citizens.

Promoting the bill at the capitol Tuesday, the Republicans say a 2017 executive order by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, which designated New York as a sanctuary state, put law enforcement in a bind limiting coordination with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Gandolfo is from the 7th district.

“It goes further to repeal the provisions of the 2019 Protect Our Courts Act, which prevents ICE officers from making arrests at courthouses throughout the states,” Gandolfo said. “So again, what we've seen is that we're not only encouraging any illegal immigrants to come to New York, we're encouraging people who have criminal intent to come here, because they know our criminal justice system is a joke.”

Gandolfo says the legislation would also reinstate a 365-day maximum sentence for class A misdemeanors, restoring the deportation of potentially dangerous migrants.

Immigration is shaping up to be a key issue of this year’s legislative session. Governor Kathy Hochul and fellow Democrats who control the legislature are proposing billions of dollars in the budget to deal with the migrant arrivals.

Lanza says it stems from President Biden’s border policy. The Senator says crime rates are on the rise as migrants and asylum seekers flood New York, and claims law enforcement officers have been directed to ignore reports of human trafficking, robberies, and violent crime.

“They're putting people from around the world above the citizens that they have sworn to serve,” Lanza said.

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt says policies emanating from the statehouse have interfered with law enforcement.

“It actually turns it around on local law enforcement and makes them the criminal for doing their job,” Ortt said. “Someone said that would there was corruption, I would even go so far as to say it's treasonous.”

Ortt says policies like the Green Light Law, which allows anyone regardless of immigration status to apply for a driver’s license, are to blame.

“New York will intentionally shield these individuals from federal immigration law, even though at that point, their asylum claim is rejected,” Ortt said. “That's why people come here. These folks aren't, they're not dumb. They know where they want to go. They know they'll be protected; they know they're going to be offered jobs, they're never going to be offered benefits. That's why they're coming here.”

Governor Hochul recently made it easier for asylum-seekers with work authorizations to work public-sector jobs.

Dismissing any potential increases in costs related to extending maximum sentencing for misdemeanors and reporting to ICE, Ortt says majority Democrats are penny-pinching in the wrong areas.

“I'm sure enforcing all the laws are challenging for our law enforcement, I'm sure costs more money to prosecute bad people,” Ortt said. “I'm sure it costs money to have police officers running around arresting people, but we do it because it keeps people safe. And if and there's no way that my colleagues across the aisle as they're contemplating a $232 billion budget, there's no way that this was suddenly an epiphany.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay says the state’s existing policies, including the sanctuary designation, weren’t passed in good faith. The Republican from Western New York says this proposal is meant to protect residents and their jobs.

“They're not silver bullet. They’re are not going to completely solve these problems but they're the right direction that we should be moving in,” Barclay said. “First, track and report all state spending that we're spending on this crisis, require background checks on migrants, illegal asylum seekers. How about not allowing migrant shelters to go into daycares or schools?”

The budget is due April 1st.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.