Rensselaer County Democrats call on sheriff to withdraw from ICE program

January 31, 2018 07:23 PM

TROY -- Democrats in the Rensselaer County Legislature are calling on Sheriff Pat Russo to withdraw his application to a federal Immigrations and Custom Enforcement program.

Minority Leader Peter Grimm, the top Democrat in the Rensselaer County Legislature says his office has been getting calls and emails from people worried about the 287(g) program. It can give local law enforcement some of the same authority as federal immigration officers. Sheriff Pat Russo has applied.

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"The public's perception of this is it's deputizing people patrol people to go out and profile, and bring people in, and that's not what's happening," said Grimm.

Russo and Rensselaer County Director of Operations Richard Crist says there will be no immigration raids.

The sheriff sat down with democrats to explain his plan. He would not do an on-camera interview with WNYT, but he talked with a reporter over the phone.

Russo says he only plans to deputize four jail employees and no patrol officers. After training throught the federal government, those employees would vet people already arrested.  

Russo says it is another tool for law enforcement. Russo thinks the federal government will also steer more federal prisoners his way and pay for his jail to house them.  That would be a revenue booster for county.

"The federal government is looking for an extra set of eyes and ears on the county level, in case there's folks who may have been implicated, and may have knowledge of more serious crimes," said Rich Crist, County Director of Operations.

The County Executive's Office supports the plan.

Grimm is still asking: why can't the sheriff can't the sheriff call federal ICE officers to do the job?

"There's no benefit here, there's nothing constructive about doing this. I don't believe it's going to get us any revenue. In fact, in some counties, they've cited it's been costly," said Grimm.

Democrats filed a resolution urging the sheriff to withdraw his application to the program. But even if the resolution is passed, it has no power over Russo. Lawmakers only control the sheriff's budget.

Lawmakers will hold a public hearing next Wednesday, February 7, on the program. Sheriff Russo likely will not be there.  He says he is close to being accepted into the program and coming to an agreement with ICE.

At some point, Russo says he will send out a letter to residents explaining why he entered the program and what it means for them.



Asa Stackel

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