Council Adopts Don’t Ask Policy

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, Albany Times Union, July 21, 2009

The city waded cautiously into the national immigration debate Monday night when lawmakers called on police and other public safety workers not to ask people their immigration status if they are “not posing a threat to the community.”

The Common Council approved the measure 14-0, with one member absent from the chamber, only after adding a clause that specifically said the intent was not to encourage people to live illegally in the United States.

Rather, supporters said, the resolution is meant to encourage a climate of trust and acceptance that will among other things enable immigrants–documented and otherwise–to access emergency services without fear of arrest and detention.

“What this is not is a free pass for someone to engage in illegal activity,” said Councilman James Sano, who expressed concern that the measure was being spun by some people to mean the city was asking police to turn a blind eye to crime.

“Don’t let the haters distort what this is not,” Sano urged.

The measure is not binding on city employees.

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In adopting the resolution, Albany joined at least 30 other cities, towns and counties throughout the country–including Boston, Cleveland and New York City–that have passed similar measures, many of them more strongly worded, said its chief sponsor, Councilwoman Barbara Smith.

At its core, Smith said, the resolution is another bulwark against racial profiling and a mechanism to keep questions if immigration status out of situations where they have no place.

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