NY sheriff tells deputies to ignore Cuomo’s immigration order

A New York county sheriff is telling his deputies to ignore an order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that instructs state police and other New York officials not to ask individuals about their immigration status, accusing the Democratic governor of trying to score “cheap political points.”

Cuomo on Friday signed the executive order that also prohibits state officials from disclosing a person's immigration status to federal authorities, except in certain situations such as police investigations.

Hours later, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard issued a statement telling his deputies to continue reporting to U.S. officials “any and all” incidents involving undocumented individuals, consistent with existing department policy and federal law. 

“Our officers have sworn a solemn oath to uphold the law,” Howard, a Republican, said in the statement. “As sheriff, part of my job is enforcing our constitution and the law, regardless of what cheap political points Albany politicians are looking to score."

Cuomo's counsel Alphonso David fired back Tuesday at the sheriff, noting the order didn't apply to local jurisdictions anyway. 

"New York is leading the way forward in protecting all our state's immigrant families and communities. If the Sheriff had bothered to read the executive order, he would know that it applies to state agencies and authorities, not local jurisdictions," he said in a statement. "Nevertheless, if this Sheriff  intimidates, threatens, harasses or extorts any person for any reason including national origin or ethnicity, he will be breaking the law and no one is above the law." 

But Howard told a Buffalo-area TV station that Cuomo’s message was “causing confusion … to our deputies out on the road. So I thought it was important to address the issue before heading into the weekend.”

Howard also made clear that he takes issue with the broader issue of anybody inside the United States not having to disclose their immigration status or country of origin when asked.

“If I go to Canada, I have to have a passport, which I pay the federal government to get,” Howard told WGRZ-TV. “I cannot comprehend we’d have government rules that say people from other countries have to have something else.” 

Both Howard and Cuomo are seeking reelection. 

Cuomo, considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate as well, said he signed the order “as Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy.”

“We are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government,” he said in a statement accompanying his order. “New York became the Empire State due to the contributions of immigrants from every corner of the globe and we will not let the politics of fear and intimidation divide us.”