Displaying items by tag: immigration enforcement
Challenging. Extremely nuanced. And very, very complicated.
The city’s recently formed Human Rights Task Force hosted a Town Hall at Skidmore College on a stormy Monday evening regarding the impact of immigration in Saratoga Springs. The moderated panel discussion included regional business owners, an attorney specializing in immigration employment matters relating and local and state community leaders and representatives.
The prevailing sentiment of the informational meeting – which was attended by about 175 people and included an audience Q&A session – is that even as Saratoga Springs strives to be “a welcoming and all-inclusive community,” there are limits to what the city can do regarding immigrant workers – both documented and undocumented - given that federal laws supersede local ones.
“What we have done is everything we can do,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “This is a federal agency. This is The White House. And we don’t have legal grounds.”
Earlier this year, the mayor founded a city Human Rights Task Force – which focuses mostly on education, programming such as Monday’s event, and providing referrals to local agencies that can assist in immigration issues. In March, city Police Chief Greg Veitch said while the department will work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. if asked, local police will not detain anyone solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws.
In June, federal agents conducted two separate operations in Saratoga Springs, arresting a total of 26 “unlawfully present foreign nationals,” according to the agency.
In recent months, two city based churches stepped forward with a sanctuary pledge for undocumented immigrants who are targets of deportation. I.C.E. typically operates under guidelines that recognize places like churches and schools as sensitive locations where agents would not normally carry out enforcement actions. However, there are no guarantees.
“Designating oneself as a ‘sanctuary’ doesn’t mean that people without immigration status are immune from federal law,” notes attorney Brendan Venter, an immigrant specialist with the Whiteman Osterman & Hanna firm in Albany.
More than 11 countries are represented on the backstretch said Task Force member Diane Barnes said Monday, adding that besides the racecourse, high-profile employers such as Skidmore College and Global Foundries also employ a good number of immigrants.
Panelist and local business owner Patrick Pipino spoke about the large immigrant work force in the food and restaurant business. “Good people. Hard working people. Why Saratoga? I think it’s easy to pick off people because we’re a high-profile community, and in my opinion there’s a new sheriff in town and he wants to show he’s tough on immigration.” Business owners are required to turn over employment records to federal authorities when asked and when they arrive with warrant in hand. Those detained are held locally in Albany for only a couple of days before being sent to federal detention in Buffalo, which makes timeliness of representation difficult where they can plead their case.
One resource available to anyone with immigration questions is at the New York State Office for New Americans, which is funded by Catholic Charities and offers resources in 200 different languages.
“First it will help refer you to an organization that will provide assistance on any immigrant-related questions. It’s all free and confidential,” New York Department of State’s Laura González-Murphy - who directs the New York State Office for New Americans - said Monday night. “We’re also going to be using that as a resource to connect with legal assistance, for an attorney.” The agency can be reached by phone at 1-800-566-7636. “People who know an immigrant can call, immigrants themselves can call. It’s for anyone who needs assistance,” she said.
“I think there is a humanitarian effort to this, because families are being broken apart in ways we haven’t seen before,” Yepsen said.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following an ongoing investigation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 10 unlawfully present adult males and one unaccompanied alien minor Wednesday, in Saratoga Springs. The men - one Guatemalan national and nine Mexican nationals, who are between the ages of 20-49, currently face administrative immigration violations.
The arrests occurred without incident near multiple area residences. Three of the adult males are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation. All of the adult males are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility, according to a statement issued by ICE on Thursday.
The unaccompanied alien minor was served with a Notice to Appear in immigration court, and transferred to the Department Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for placement, consistent with ICE policy relating to minors.
Just over two weeks ago, special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 men in Saratoga Springs with alleged administrative immigration violations.
City Explains Immigration Enforcement Policy
After receiving numerous inquiries from local residents about how the city would handle issues related to illegal immigration and the level of its cooperation with federal officials, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen asked Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch to formally address the issue.
“Given the number of people who come to our city, especially in the summertime, and some of whom may have immigration statuses that are questionable, I thought I would talk to our police chief,” Mathiesen explained to the City Council this week. “We do want these people to feel as if they have the public safety department, the police department, fire/EMS department as a resource, and should not feel as if they may have immigration complications should they require those services.”
The responding two-page statement from Chief Veitch, which Mathiesen called “a reasonable and caring approach” and was read to the council Tuesday night, assures that the police department serves the entire community and recognizes the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status. However, it does not mean that members of the police department will refuse to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E.
Veitch said with regards to the reporting of a crime or cooperation with an investigation, the department does not require or encourage its officers to investigate the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, and that Immigration enforcement is not a priority of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “However, should a federal law enforcement agency request assistance from the Saratoga Springs Police, we will provide assistance consistent with our policies and procedures, as we would for any other law enforcement organization needing assistance within city limits. “
Criminal offenders in custody, those who may be wanted by another law agency, or individuals verified to have a valid warrant from any federal agency, including I.C.E. will be detained by local officers in accordance with the law. “We will not, however, detain any individual solely for a civil violation of federal immigration laws. Nor will S.S.P.D. detain any individual that would otherwise be eligible for release, simply for the purpose of notifying federal authorities or to check immigration status.”
Council Revisits Affordable Housing Issues, Potential Solutions
A proposal for “inclusionary zoning,” first floated a decade ago but never brought to a vote by the City Council, on Tuesday night received the first of what is anticipated to be two public hearings.
The SPA Housing Zoning ordinance would require new housing developments and apartment complexes across the city to include some units deemed affordable to residents with moderate incomes.
“This is a work-in-progress,” city Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during Tuesday’s 60-minute hearing, “but it’s essential that we find a way to create more variety of price-points for housing.” The purpose of the hearing is to get public feedback regarding the proposal, which has not been finalized, Yepsen added.
There are various resident income target-points the city may choose to pursue – from “low” to “moderate” to “middle” income households; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets the area median income for a family of four in Saratoga County at $82,000. As such, affordable units put up for sale that are made available to “moderate” and “middle” income households indicate thresholds respectively set at less than 80 percent, and at 100 percent, of that $82,000 median income.
The affordable-housing ordinance proposal applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Year-round city residents would have first opportunity to apply for the affordable units.
The ordinance would apply to new projects consisting of 10 or more residential units as well as to existing structures undergoing substantial renovation or conversion from nonresidential to residential use.
The ordinance stipulates that 10 to 20 percent of all new or newly converted units be set aside to meet the “affordable” criteria. To compensate developers, the program would allow them to increase the density of housing projects by up to 20 percent
More than 400 municipalities across the country have adopted inclusionary zoning programs, Commissioner Mathiesen said, adding that any ordinance eventually adopted would only be one part of an overall strategy to meet housing needs. The City Council will continue its discussion of the topic at its next meeting, on April 4.
Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee Sets Goals for 2017
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen announced a new mission statement and work plan regarding the Saratoga Springs Senior Advisory Committee. Among the 2017 goals of the group is to: raise awareness regarding services available to senior citizens; address and advocate for senior concerns and support services, and to serve as a liaison between seniors, the mayor, and members of the City Council. The committee is comprised of eight individual members and representatives of up to seven area organizations.
In 2017, the Committee will advocate for special mobility needs of seniors, including a drive-up mailbox in the downtown area and additional handicap parking. Members of the Senior Advisory Committee are appointed by the mayor.
Public Safety Commissioner Mathiesen will not seek a Fourth Term
City elections will be held in November when all five council seats and two supervisor positions will be up for vote. Last week, Peter Martin – one of two Saratoga Springs Supervisors representing the city at the county level - announced that he will seek to run as a Democrat for Commissioner of Public Safety. Current DPS Commissioner Chris Mathiesen will not seek a fourth term. Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee chairman Charles Brown said party members will vote on endorsements in May and that he was not currently aware of any other potential candidate seeking the Public Safety Commissioner seat on the Democratic line.
County Supervisor Matthew Veitch will present a program, titled “Origins of Preservation Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs: 1962-1986,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
The presentation about the often-controversial Urban Renewal Program will feature rare images from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation members and can be purchased by calling 518-587-5030.
City Gifted “Grande Olde Saratoga” Painting
“Grand Olde Saratoga,” an oil painting depicting a delivery by a horse-pulled Saratoga Vichy water company cart to the prestigious Grand Union Hotel, was gifted to the city by Sharon Miller. The 24-by-30-inch painting is valued at approximately $400 and was hung in the mayor’s office this week, following the acceptance of the gift by the City Council.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at City Hall. Taking place among other items will be a consideration for coordinated SEQRA Review regarding the proposed Station Park mixed-use development on the city’s west side, adjacent to the railroad station.
The Charter Review Committee will hold a public forum 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. The Commission is recommending that a City Manager-Council form of government replace the current Commission form of governing. The referendum will be up for vote in November.