Our Town, Our Sanctuary

Charles Stern
Pelham, NY, February 8, 2017

Pelham’s Village Hall is a simple old house, but it’s quaint exterior camouflages the matters of national importance that echoed within its main room, beginning at 8:00 PM last night.

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There’s been a profound disruption in the status quo of suburban politics as a result of President Trump’s January 27 EXECUTIVE ORDER PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES.

On January 19 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued guidance to local municipalities in a document entitled, “GUIDANCE CONCERNING LOCAL AUTHORITY PARTICIPATION IN IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT AND MODEL SANCTUARY PROVISIONS“.  In short the AG provided local leaders with a prescription to assure that the rights of all New Yorkers will be upheld, regardless of racist, unfair federal enforcement practices.

The guide contains sample statements and legislation.  Schneiderman boils it down to copy-and-paste, then approve.  Recently, “Sanctuary” provisions have been adopted in other Westchester communities, elsewhere in New York and around the country.

With about 40 members of the public in attendance, Board of Trustees seemed to slow-roll an emerging group of local residents and community activists.  Prior to hearing comments from the public, Republican Mayor Michael Volpe launched a pre-emptive monologue, articulating the machinations of authoring complex local resolutions.  Pelham’s Democratic elected leaders, Chris Reim, Andrea Reinke, and Adam Kagan remained silent before, during and after Volpe’s remarks about immigration.

I do think we are going to need to carefully consider the suggestions of the Attorney General, consult with Rick (Deere) in his capacity as Trustee and our Police Chief and Jason Pallet, our Lieutenant. And we are going to take that very serious(ly). – Mayor Michael Volpe.

Trustee Deere is a Republican and a former police officer.

Resident and local activist Jennie Driesen read a brief draft resolution consistent with statements made by officials around the state.  In New Castle, a similar elegant statement went like this:

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[Video clip: LoHud, Carucha Meuse, Lohud.   http://lohud.us/2k357Rr]

By contrast, Pelham, or at least its elected officials, need more time.  Volpe shunted board discussion about Sanctuary provisions to the February 28 meeting.  He concluded his remarks with, “I set the agenda.”  Then the floor was open for public comment.