Suffern meets on immigration proposal

March 27, 2008 8:19:57 PM PDT
There was a raucous town hall meeting in Suffern Thursday, with hundreds of residents attending, about a highly emotional and controversial topic. At issue is whether or not police officers should be allowed to take illegal immigrants into custody and begin the deportation process.

They would be the first in the state to do so.

Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid has more.

There was a split crowd and a divided community Thursday night. On the one end, those would want a safer neighborhood. On the other, those who question, at what cost?

About 500 people packed Suffern Village Hall, many of them spilling into the hallway and trying desperately to listen to what their neighbors had to say.

"It doesn't matter to me if you live next door to me, in Spring Valley or if you're in a foreign country," one resident said. "If you commit a crime in Suffern, you need to get out."

"I do not wish my Suffern tax dollars going to something the federal government should be undertaking," another said.

Suffern's mayor and police chief back a new proposal giving officers power to enforce federal immigration laws. They say 287-G focuses strictly on undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes, not minor offenses.

But some question if the move will lead to discrimination and racial profiling.

"When bureaucracy gets involved in trying to fix a problem, sometimes it snowballs and makes the problem bigger," resident Hope Morris said.

Morris works down at the Airmont Diner. She's torn on the issue.

"Most of them are good, hard-working people that just want to make a living and feed their family, like I'm doing every day," she said. "But then there are other people who are repeat offenders and cause problems."

As you can imagine, the issue is a hot-button topic.

Al Ross handed out T-shirts in support of the move, which he says is simple.

"Get the bad guys out and let the good guys stay," he said.

The debate is far from over. The village will consider Thursday's public input before they vote on the issue. Then, if it's approved, officers will will be trained and deputized.