February 13, 2017, Pelham Manor, NY
The Pelham Manor Board of Trustees dedicated a full hour within its monthly meeting agenda to a thoughtful, meandering discussion of a proposed local resolution intended to protect immigrant communities.
The session opened with a joint statement by Katherine L. Pringle and Audrey Beerman, local residents, who presented a draft resolution (see text below), along with the names of 168 other residents who are urging its adoption.
Mayor Jennifer M. Lapey moved the board slowly and deliberately toward an open and frank discussion of this timely issue. The meaning of local sanctuary provisions was shoved into the national zeitgeist by President Trump’s EXECUTIVE ORDER PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES. Lapey allowed an extended period of public commentary, which included some statements in support of the draft local resolution and sadly, some openly racist remarks, in opposition.
Ms. Pringle addressed the meaning of the draft resolution and also explained what it does not do. Essentially, it is a statement that as to local issues, Pelham Manor will focus its enforcement on the neutral treatment of all people. The measure is not intended to change current practices, to dictate a change to local officials or to place Pelham in violation of federal immigration law. Its operating principle is that the whole community is safer when all people feel safe interacting with the police.
“There are many people in this community and surrounding communities of all immigration statuses who are feeling an unprecedented sense of insecurity. We want to telegraph the message to those individuals that when the police car comes behind them flashing lights, it’s ok to pull over. If they’re the victims of crimes, it’s OK to report them. If they’re witnesses to crimes, it’s ok to cooperate with local authorities.” – Pelham Manor Resident Katherine L. Pringle
The tone of the meeting was remarkable in its openness. Every trustee made a point of clarification or raised a question. Audience members addressed the board and each other, some multiple times. If Mayor Lapey had a thought bubble, it would have read, “Can we talk?” The hour-long group convo was in contrast with the Village of Pelham board meeting of February 8, 2017, at which a similar draft resolution was presented.
Trustee and Police Commissioner Louis Annunziata addressed Ms. Pringle directly. He stated, “You are asking basically for a re-affirmation of existing police policies. Everything you have in your resolution is being done, it’s always been done, it’s being done right now.”
A student march protesting harmful POTUS policies, including the immigration ban, is being planned for March 5, 2017 in Pelham Manor and the Village of Pelham. Violet Massie-Vereker, a 10th grader from Pelham High School, asked the trustees for permission to march along Pelhamdale Avenue. Logistics will be reviewed by the Village Supervisor.
As to the draft resolution, Mayor Lapey said, “We have to do a little homework on this.”