East Hampton will not take an enhanced role in enforcing immigration laws, Supervisor Larry Cantwell told a packed meeting room at Town Hall on Thursday night.
The town, Mr. Cantwell said, will not ask the Department of Homeland Security to authorize its police officers to take people into custody solely for immigration violations. Last month, President Trump issued an executive order instructing the federal officials to deputize local jurisdictions for that purpose, should they request it.
We understand how the immigrant community is an important part of our economy and our culture, and we intend to respect that.”
— East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell
The town will not change its policies, Mr. Cantwell said. In cases involving criminal activity or deportation orders, police will continue to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But, he said, “We do not seek out illegal immigrants in the process of law enforcement.”
“We ask for a separation of immigration and local law enforcement in all ways legal and possible,” Minerva Perez of the Organizacion Latino Americana, an advocacy group, told the town board.
“We are aware of the changes in federal immigration policy and the confusion from it, as well as the fear caused by it,” Mr. Cantwell said.
A number of people who might be affected by the increased federal push on immigration enforcement were reportedly too fearful to attend Thursday's meeting.
Several speakers urged town officials to take proactive steps to ease growing worries among East Hampton’s immigrant population, and to make it very clear just when and why someone's immigration status would be checked, or an undocumented immigrant be subject to deportation.
“Help us to bring down the levels of fear,” Ms. Perez asked.
Mr. Cantwell said town officials, including Police Chief Michael Sarlo, were consulting federal and state officials, including the office of the New York State Attorney General, about the changing immigration policy.
“We’re evaluating impacts on people who live and work here in town,” he said. “I think all of us feel an obligation to the community. All of us as individuals have a responsibility to reassure people that we know that it’s going to be okay, that we’re going to help them. . . . We understand how the immigrant community is an important part of our economy and our culture, and we intend to respect that.”
“Communities are built on trust,” said Daniel Hartnett, a social worker for the East Hampton School District. “We need to trust our institutions, especially the police. Let’s build our protocols on that.”
“East Hampton has always been a town of good neighbors,” said Betty Mazur, an Amagansett resident. “Perhaps we can call this, in an official way, a ‘good neighbor town.' ”
The town board could then issue a public statement to that effect, she said, “to indicate to our good neighbors what it is they can expect from the town and from all of us as good neighbors.”