ITHACA, N.Y. — Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he and deputies within his department will not ask for a person’s immigration status unless it is directly relevant to an investigation.
In the public latter, Lansing wrote, “We do not have the constitutional authority, intention, nor the personnel to enforce federal laws; including the federal immigration law – which clearly falls under the responsibility of the federal government.”
He said that the department’s policy will not give people a pass when they commit crimes
The letter was prompted by discussion from Tompkins County legislators that some officials are looking to make the county a Sanctuary County.
County Legislator Anna Kelles, who represents Ithaca, presented a draft of a Sanctuary County proposal at the Tompkins County Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee on Jan 25.
During a nearly two-hour public comment period in the City of Ithaca Wednesday night, which mostly was about a Sanctuary City Ordinance that later unanimously passed Common Council, Kelles said the point of making the county a Sanctuary area is to educate people, unite people and make the community safer.
“We are doing this resolution in the county, and it’s going to be more difficult in the county,” she said.
She encouraged the people who showed up in support of the Ithaca Ordinance to continue supporting efforts to create similar policies in the county.
“Everything that’s we’ve learned here tonight, please take it out into the rural communities and help cross that barrier and educate people.”
Lansing’s public letter can be read in its entirety below:
An Open Letter to the Citizens of Tompkins County
As your Sheriff, I realize that from time to time issues arise that are completely out of our local control; and yet we must react to these issues. The recent changes in federal policy regarding immigration is one such issue, and it is my duty to assure all residents of Tompkins County that the Sheriff’s Office has been, and will continue to be, committed to helping all people in their time of need; regardless of their immigration status.
My staff has many duties that they attend to including the safety of every resident in our County. Our practice and ethos is to treat everyone fairly and hold everyone accountable to the same standards and law. Among our duties is the responsibility to enforce the laws of the State of New York. If a person commits a crime, regardless of that person’s immigration status, they will be arrested. We do not have the constitutional authority, intention, nor the personnel to enforce federal laws; including the federal immigration law – which clearly falls under the responsibility of the federal government. When our deputies come in contact with a person, whether they are a complainant, a victim, a witness, or the perpetrator of a crime, we will investigate the incident and take appropriate action, and will document and report the incident to the proper State and local agencies; as we have always done. We do not inquire about immigration status unless it is directly relevant to an investigation and under no other circumstance.
I am aware that the Tompkins County Legislature will soon be considering a resolution in response to the recent Executive Order from President Trump regarding changes in the immigration policy. I appreciate that members of our Legislature have met with me and my staff while drafting the resolution to ensure that it is both responsive to the views of their constituents, protects the inalienable rights of our residents, acknowledges the practices that the Sheriff’s Office already has in place, and does not put the Sheriff’s Office in a quandary that would prevent my deputies from being able to conduct themselves in a manner that adheres to New York State law. We have enjoyed a good working relationship with the County Legislature on a variety of difficult issues and we will continue to work with them on this issue as well for the benefit of all our citizens; including our immigrant population.