Albany's police chief insists city is complying with federal immigration law

January 25, 2018 11:20 PM

ALBANY - As an official sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, Albany finds itself in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice.

“Our sanctuary city law is written in such a way that it doesn't violate federal law,” said Albany Acting Police Chief Robert Sears. “…it guides some of our policies,”


Albany is among 23 municipalities that received letters from the DOJ this week requesting documents showing whether their law enforcement official are restricting information sharing with federal immigration 

“We don't have anything in our policies that says we will not comply with the federal law,” Sears said. 

Sears also rejects the suggestion from critics that Albany is protecting criminals. 

“Anyone who commits a crime in the city, I don't care what their status is, is going to have the full weight of the New York State penal law brought down upon them,” Sears said. 

It’s still not entirely clear what is behind the DOJ's to make the demands. 

Andy Ayers, who is the Director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, has a few ideas. 

“One is because they think there might in fact be more information that hasn't already been provided,” Ayers said. “And the other is to put pressure on cities that identify themselves as sanctuaries.” 

Mayor Kathy Sheehan is attending a mayor's conference in Washington, D.C. this week. 

She said this is the second DOJ request of this nature Albany has responded to in recent weeks. 

“Federal law does not require that local law enforcement enforce immigration law,” Sheehan said. “That is something that is enforced at the federal level.” 

If the DOJ’s demands are not met, Albany and the other cities risk losing federal crime-fighting funds.

That would be $64,000 a year for Albany. 

Sears also worries the DOJ's crackdown on sanctuary cities could intimidate immigrant communities.

“The last thing I want to do is have a group of people that are living in a city afraid to call the police for whatever reason if they're being victimized,” Sears said. 

Sears said city police officials as well as attorneys for Albany Police and the city met with officials at Albany’s Mayor’s office Thursday to figure out how best to respond to the DOJ's most recent request. 

He said they have until February 23rd to do so. 


WNYT Staff

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