John Katko

U.S. Rep. John Katko, center, and state Assemblyman Gary Finch, right, greet employees during shift change Oct. 26 at Auburn Correctional Facility.

U.S. Rep. John Katko on Monday aligned with the Republican and Conservative parties against a state bill that would designate New York as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants. 

The legislation is sponsored by state Sen. Jose Serrano and would prevent the detention of undocumented immigrants if their only offense is violating federal immigration laws. 

There would be exceptions if the undocumented immigrant has been convicted of a violent felony offense or certain misdemeanors, including third-degree assault, second-degree sexual abuse, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child. 

"This legislation would ensure that New York state joins other states like California and Connecticut as leaders in immigrant rights and that New York state no longer wastes its limited resources on complying with requests by immigration officials to detain people who are not dangerous criminals or national security threats," the bill states. 

Katko, R-Camillus, opposes the measure. He believes state and local law enforcement should cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws. 

In a statement, he asked the state Legislature to reject the proposal. 

"Efforts to thwart federal law enforcement should never be encouraged, and I strongly believe legislation before the New York state Legislature to designate New York as a 'sanctuary state' is dangerous policy," said Katko, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

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The state Conservative Party held a press conference over the weekend to blast the bill. Other Republicans who, like Katko, have received the minor party's endorsement also criticized the measure. 

The opponents include U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who issued a statement Saturday calling the bill and other immigration-related proposals "reckless." 

The Conservative Party said it's not anti-immigrant and understands why people would want to come to the U.S. But the party supports "laws that have made America and New York the place that is still the beacon of freedom everyone seeks." 

Serrano's bill is receiving more attention because Democrats control both houses of the state Legislature. But that doesn't guarantee the legislation will be approved by the state Assembly and Senate. 

There isn't an Assembly version of the bill and it has two cosponsors in the state Senate. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee on April 18, according to the Senate's website. 

If the Senate votes on the bill, it will have to happen within the next two weeks. The legislative session ends Wednesday, June 19. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.