Students, commmunity react to executive order reforming New York immigration policy

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Sept. 15 that prohibits state law enforcement officials from asking individuals about their immigration status.

Cuomo issued the order in response to the rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by President Donald Trump, according to his statement at the order’s passage.

“As Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy, we are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government," Cuomo said. "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.”

New York State is home to over 20 percent of foreign-born individuals, according to the text of the executive order. In Livingston County, the number of people with United States citizenship is higher than the national average, at 98.6 percent in 2015 according to Data USA. 

A traffic stop on Mary Jemison Drive on March 23 led to the detainment of a family of two undocumented women and five children, igniting local community members’ discontent. 

To some Geneseo students, the state level action represents a welcome corrective to the immigration issue. Physics major sophomore Justin D’Souza feels that Cuomo’s decision could help correct the action of the Village police in March. 

Since the executive order only applies to state level law enforcement agencies, Geneseo Village Chief of Police Eric Osganian doubts that the policy will have an effect on policing in the Village. 

“Immigration is so small for us here,” he said. “The Village has one or two [immigration issues] a year, maybe on a traffic stop. That’s about it.”  

Some Geneseo students feel as though immigration concerns remain understated on campus, according to the Latino Student Association treasurer junior Anahi Cortes. 

“I know a couple people who didn’t have citizenship this year up until they got to Geneseo,” she said. “There are many people who we don’t know are not born here; they’re immigrants. And I think for them, this policy can be like a safety net.” 

Cortes explained that her perspective as the child of two first-generation immigrants influences her views on the executive order. She believes that the policy is a positive step toward helping immigrants and children of immigrants manage fears of deportation.

“Having a father that was deported, that was always a fear for me growing up. I was scared that a random police officer was going to go up to my mom ... and they were going to take her away from me,” Cortes said. “Not only for myself, but I know for a lot of children of immigrants [the executive order] kind of gives them that sense of relief.” 

Accounting major sophomore Jack Shepardson believes the new policy adds a protective measure in order to prevent the historical marginalization of ethnic and racial minorities. 

Tensions due to the political atmosphere have increased throughout the United States, according to Cortes. Cortes feels that Cuomo’s decision represents New York’s role as a home for immigrants in the face of these rising tensions. 

For some of Geneseo’s international students like biology major sophomore Esha Parikh, policies like Cuomo’s can influence their perception of the U.S. 

“The past year’s political environment has seriously made me consider if the USA is the right place for me to build my life,” Parikh said. “But laws like these restores my faith and confidence in this country still having open arms to all.”u