Opinion

Local Sheriff Defies New York Governor, Enforces Law

Recently, I wrote about sanity leaving California with regard to its leftist leaders actively, even statutorily, obstructing ICE agents. Incidentally, along with any remaining sanity, many fed-up residents are also leaving the increasingly inhospitable state—well, inhospitable for American citizens and legal immigrants. To the contrary, I’m pleased to report that you can still find a little immigration sanity in New York. It comes in the form of sane Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo.

If you talk to the illegal immigration activists cited in a New York Times story, you’d swear they’d never looked up the definition for sheriff. Last I heard, sheriffs serve as a county’s top law enforcer. And what’s Sheriff Russo’s grand transgression? He is daring to cooperate with ICE to enforce federal immigration law by keeping criminal illegal aliens off the streets and out of this country. Remember when that was what we expected from our sheriffs?

Rensselaer County became one of the 75 U.S. counties who’ve signed an agreement, known as 287(g), with ICE, allowing corrections officers to perform as ICE officers in certain instances. Since President Trump signed the executive order to reinforce the program, twice as many counties are now participating.

Not surprisingly, New York Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office released a statement: “State police agencies do not and will not engage in such activities, and we are troubled that one local sheriff in the state has decided to participate.” New York’s governor is troubled that a New York sheriff would enforce the law? This is lunacy.

Countering NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement above, it seems the state police and the Rensselaer County deputies celebrate a milestone partnerships in law enforcement. (Credit: Sheriff Pat Russo)

Think about it. It’s become anathema to the left for a sheriff to enforce the law—if they don’t like the law. It is the U.S. Congress that passes the laws ICE enforces. In fact, 287(g) was originally signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton—a Democrat, if I recall—as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. (Can you believe a Democrat actually signed something with that title? Wouldn’t happen today.)

The usual suspects cite the usual talking points: “287(g) undermines the trust between immigrants and law enforcement and makes immigrants less likely to report crimes…[Emphasis mine].” Where did that elusive “illegal” connotation disappear to again?

This is not about immigrants; this is about illegal immigrants. And the disingenuous left knows it. Legal and illegal are antonyms, not synonyms, and the left’s insistence on conflating the terms is maddening.

Even the context of this story secretes bias. Of course, it’s in the New York Times, so…the writer uses the very first sentence to set up a false premise in describing Troy, NY., the county seat, where the sheriff’s office is located.

The writer seems to imply Russo’s a hypocrite when she describes his city, Troy, as “a former steel town built by Irish and Italian arrivals, (where) the local sheriff has embraced a federal program designed to catch undocumented immigrants in county jails [emphasis mine].” At least she conceded the euphemism, “undocumented.” But also consider that the people we’re talking about here are in jail!

While Sheriff Russo reports that there have been rumors circulating that the sheriff’s office will be conducting community sweeps for illegal aliens, he says, “The agreement doesn’t allow us to do that.” Just wait for the sweeps to make the fake news cycle, if they haven’t already.

December 2017: Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 22 people living in the U.S. illegally during a roundup in northern Kentucky. (Credit: Northern Kentucky News)

More fodder for illegal immigrants being “afraid to report crime.” Wouldn’t this apply to any lawbreaker avoiding the law? Why not ignore all crimes that cause criminals to hide from the cops? You know…to support the cops. People wanted on a warrant for shoplifting or too many traffic tickets probably don’t want to call or cooperate with police either.

Also, from personal experience (we have lots of immigrants in Seattle), the vast majority of cops just don’t ask about the immigration status of complainants, witnesses, or victims. In fact, I don’t know how that would even come up unless the person brought it up. I didn’t even think to ask a suspect about immigration status, even before our city made it illegal for officers to ask about it. I always figured that was for the jail to figure out if I had to make an arrest.

One tactic illegal immigration supporters use is to insinuate situations that don’t exist so they can exploit the resultant fear. Aside from the rumors about sheriff’s sweeps, reportedly, “activists and lawmakers” worry the sheriff’s participation will “embolden patrol officers to act, informally, as immigration agents, too.”

From what I’ve read, the illegal immigration “problem” in the county is miniscule. The only reason we’re reading about it at all is because of the unreasonable stance taken by the pro-illegal alien factions making it a big deal.

Sarah Rogerson, director of Albany Law School’s immigration law clinic says she’s concerned that the “discretionary powers afforded to officers could lead to civil rights abuses.” Things like not providing a translator. More fear mongering. See how it works? There are no actual abuses to report, so they make some up.

Once again, this hysteria is a bit silly. There is no problem here except where the left creates one. According to the New York Times, only two to six inmates born in a foreign country come through the jail per month out of the 3,000 that pass through it per year. Tempest in a teapot, mountain out of a molehill, making a federal case…whatever cliché you wish to employ works, though the latter seems most accurate.

For some reason, the writer included the incidental, superfluous fact that Russo’s grandfather emigrated from Italy in 1909. And…what? This is yet another allusion conflating illegal immigration and legal immigration. As if Sheriff Russo should support illegal immigration because he is descended from immigrants.

When President Obama announced, “We are five days from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” he really meant it. Obviously, he and his ilk aren’t fond of the United States of America as established by our founders, based on the rule of law from which comes the law of the land—the U.S. Constitution. So, leniency, even clemency, toward illegal behavior became the new paradigm—a reverence for a new anti-constitutional lawlessness of the land. Anyone could see the future of such a policy: Setting Americans against each other.

Shouldn’t we expect that if there are people willing to ignore duly passed laws, there would also be people against people who ignore the law? This is similar to the situation in the newly established sanctuary state of California. At the same time state officials are ignoring federal immigration laws, they become apoplectic when cities ignore state laws designed to protect illegal immigration. Only then do they cry about the rule of law.

Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo saluting onlookers–and perhaps a US flag– as he walks the Troy Flag Day Parade in July 2017. (Credit: Facebook/Sheriff Pat Russo)

The thing is, leftist leaders benefit when Americans are set in opposition to each other. Identity politics is alive and well in the United States. Dividing people creates rifts the left can exploit. It also promotes an obvious long-term plan to gain voters by making illegal immigrants legal or by making it possible for illegal immigrants to vote.

What happens to a society when it rejects the rule of law, has a major political party that condemns a sheriff for enforcing a law and, instead of using the available political processes to change laws it doesn’t like, simply ignores those laws? When that happens, all laws become arbitrary and are no more than suggestions. No one is guilty of a crime if they don’t agree what they did should be a crime. Right now, only one major political faction thinks this way.

Interestingly, it’s the same party that ignored federal law back in the 1850s precipitating the Civil War, the same party in the 1950s that ignored federal mandates to integrate schools, and the same party that currently refuses to enforce federal immigration law. “Sustainability” is one of the left’s favorite political slogans. Well, speaking in their language, this rogue path toward sanctuary is not sustainable.

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Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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