Pelham Manor: Can We Talk? (about immigration)

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.

residents speak to Mayor
(left to right) Audrey Beerman, Mayor Jennifer M. Lapey, Katherine L. Pringle.

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

neighbors talk
Neighbors talk: Pelham Manor resident Katherine L. Pringle (center) answers a question from another resident, during the board meeting.

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.”

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.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAQPFxcSuOs[/embedyt]

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.