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Legislator, lawyers try to make Tompkins a 'sanctuary county'

J. Stephen Conn

Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles is writing a resolution to make the county a “sanctuary county."

It would codify what the county legally does and does not have to do for federal immigration officials.

“For example, if we’re not asking about immigration status and we’re not keeping a registry, then, when we are asked for information, that is not something we would offer because we are not collecting that information," said Kelles. "It is not in the contract of our local law enforcement to enforce anything with respect to immigration law.”

Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing, has said he's supportive of the legislature's efforts and appreciates lawmakers including his department in contributing to the resolution.

But some people don't support it. Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) represents Tompkins County and a member of the Trump transition team. He said he's concerned about safety.

“When you talk about sanctuary cities and sanctuary counties and sanctuary areas, that to me is a path that could come with risk that should be seriously considered and that I do not support," said Reed.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order promising to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities, but that doesn't worry Kelles. Many laws limit the federal government’s ability to withhold money. Even so, she said, only a small part of the county budget could be affected.

The earliest the legislature could vote on the sanctuary county measure is at its session on Feb. 21.