Democrats of the New York state Assembly on Monday passed a package of proposals to defy federal law and prohibit asking about immigration status when people receive state or local services or contact law enforcement for assistance.
The Democrats say that potential consequences of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid by becoming a sanctuary state is worth the risk.
One measure would limit law enforcement from complying with federal detainer requests and limit federal officials’ access to individuals detained in state correctional facilities.
Another bill would reduce the maximum sentence for low-level misdemeanors to less than a year, allowing for judicial discretion rather than immediate and mandatory deportation. Supporters say the change in state law could keep thousands of immigrants from being deported under federal law.
Many Republican assembly members adamantly opposed the package, calling it unsafe and unfair to law enforcement.
“It is both frightening and appalling that my colleagues in the majority prefer to harbor repeat criminals by proposing ‘sanctuary’ policies for the state of New York, instead of focusing on legislation that would keep safe the hard-working, taxpaying citizens who elected them,” Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said.
Republican Assemblyman Al Graf predicted the bills would never pass the Senate and called them dangerous political theatrics.
Mr. Graf said he fears President Donald Trump would follow through on his threats to restrict essential federal funding from cities that do not comply with federal immigration policy.
“We’ve seen the actions of the new president and I don’t think he’s bluffing when it comes to taking away federal money from the states,” Graf said.
Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie said the state could try to make up a loss of federal funding in the budget, should the circumstances arise.
The Assembly also passed the state’s Dream Act to extend financial help for illegal immigrant college students. The Dream Act has received support from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but opposition in the Senate.