Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Difficulties of Sanctuary in Hudson

Since January, supporters of the sanctuary movement have filled the Council Chamber (and the lobby) at City Hall for every Police Committee, Legal Committee, and Common Council meeting, to urge the aldermen to pass a resolution declaring Hudson a "sanctuary city." At the end of February, the Legal Committee and the Police Committee both voted unanimously to move forward a resolution, which nowhere mentions the term sanctuary city but instead affirms "the City of Hudson as a Welcoming and Inclusive City." The sanctuary advocates were again present in force on Monday night, expecting to witness the resolution introduced, but, curiously, it was not on the agenda.

After six or so minutes of introductions and seconds for four other resolutions and the local law implementing a lodging tax, Council president Claudia DeStefano seemed about to wind up the meeting when Michael Chameides, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, asked about the "sanctuary city" resolution. DeStefano explained that the mayor had, only that day, sent to her and the other members of the Legal Committee New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's "Supplemental Memorandum to Guidance Concerning Local Authority Participation in Immigration Enforcement and Model Sanctuary Provisions." The eight-page supplement had been released by the Attorney General's office on March 9. (The original guidelines were released on January 19.) DeStefano explained that because she had only received the document that afternoon, and most members of the Council were seeing it for the first time at the meeting, she was postponing any discussion of the resolution until the aldermen had a chance to review the new information from the Attorney General.

After summarizing the progress of the resolution thus far, Chameides asserted, "We're in a pretty good place to discuss the resolution now." Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward), who chairs the Legal Committee, expressed his opinion that "It wouldn't hurt anything to put it on our desks now." The problem was that no one had copies of the resolution, and aldermen who were on neither the Police Committee nor the Legal Committee claimed never to have seen the resolution. The situation was remedied when members of the audience produced copies of the resolution and distributed them to the aldermen.

Gossips published the resolution on January 29 and does so again now. Click on the images to enlarge to a legible size.

The discussion that ensued focused principally on whether or not Chief Ed Moore was comfortable with the resolution. DeStefano said that Moore wanted the resolution sent to the attorney general's office for vetting. According to Chameides, "If the attorney general's office supported the resolution, it would ease [Moore's] mind." O'Hara said the resolution had been sent to the attorney general, and according to O'Hara, the attorney general's office "has expressed support for it." O'Hara went on to say, "It comports with their guidance." Chameides later noted that the resolution was "written based on the attorney general's guidelines, and now has passed muster with the attorney general."

Andy Howard, counsel to the Council, suggested that Moore "wants something from the attorney general's office." O'Hara said he had gotten a phone call from someone in the attorney general's office, and he would ask that person to call Moore as well, but he continued, "They will not issue a legal opinion to every community." Later in the discussion, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) offered a similar opinion. "In my experience," he said, "the attorney general doesn't give verbal advice. There is no way we can give the chief the assurance he wants."

Friedman warned, "To pretend that the attorney general's guidelines are some kind of protection or panacea is a mistake." He went on to say, "This is not as clear cut as we would like. . . . We're screwing with how [the police] do their jobs, and we're pretending it doesn't matter." Although the proposal that Hudson become a sanctuary city started out in the Police Committee on January 22, Friedman repeatedly asked why the police had not been consulted on the issue at the beginning of the process. Friedman, after making the point that executive order issued by the police commissioner and the mayor on February 20 was more problematic, conceded, "I don't have any problem with this [resolution] because it has no teeth. Why didn't we do it as a local law?"

Somewhere during the course of the discussion, a motion to introduce the resolution was made and seconded. In all likelihood, the resolution will be voted on at the regular meeting of the Common Council, which takes place on Tuesday, March 21.


  1. I'm emphatically in agreement with everything in Alderman Friedman's quoted statement.

    I'd add that those who are now expressing such enthusiasm about the A.G.'s opinion may be spoiling for the same fight - and the same limelight - which Mr. Schneiderman always seems to crave for himself.

    I agree this should have been a local law, and its development should have been far less problematic than it's proven to be.

    There are lessons to be learned here, but who will look for them?

  2. "...its development should have been far less problematic than its proven to be."

    True. But the same could be said for the police station, the Ferry Street bridge development, the Waterfront Plan, the lodging tax, the rezoning process, the truck route, the chicken law, the library, the senior center, the furgary,the redrawing our wards, and others I've undoubtedly left out.

    The route to success is clearer in hindsight. And on this matter, there is probably more to come.

  3. Excuse me, but Mr. Friedman has never been quiet in his disdain for laws and regulations that don't comport with his personal opinion. Why all the legal formalities now? Why can't the council just pass a resolution saying it disdains Trump's executive order and will do nothing, "to the extent allowable by law," to enforce it. Is it illegal for a council member to make a motion? Has Hudson become a Dosteoevskian mouse? --p