ERIE COUNTY, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office isn’t exactly thrilled with Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard’s directive on Friday, ordering his deputies to ignore Cuomo’s own executive order that forbids officers from asking about immigration status during traffic stops, arrests and domestic incidents on Friday.
Howard's reasoning: It created confusion for his own deputies, who were concerned the order affected them.
Howard chose to issue his own response quickly, admitting he didn't sufficiently look over the executive order beforehand.
"I don't know exactly what the message was, but I know that it was causing confusion, certainly to our deputies out on the road, and I thought it was important to address that with them before we headed out into the weekend, so as quickly as possible,” Howard clarified.
Not pleased by his statement, however, was the office of Gov. Cuomo. Richard Azzopardi, spokesperson for the governor, went so far as to call the effort “political grandstanding,” and a further confusion of the situation, saying “If the sheriff doesn't understand how government works, that's really scary."
Howard admitted he was aware that executive orders affected only state police and state agencies, but nonetheless defended his actions, saying they were not politically motivated.
Howard’s opponent, Democrat Bernie Tolbert issued the following statement on Saturday:
"Shame on Sheriff Howard for making a phony political issue out of the Governor’s executive order on immigration, sowing needless fear and anxiety in Erie County’s immigrant community, and acting once again as if as he has greater authority than the Governor, the Attorney General, the Legislature or the Courts.
Support it or oppose it, the Governor’s executive order instructing state agencies not to ask about an individual’s immigration status does not apply to municipal governments. It has no bearing on the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
It is outrageous for Tim Howard to pretend that this is a matter that affects his responsibilities. I hope and pray that he does not use this phony issue as an excuse to begin intimidating residents of Erie County as they go about their daily business or to otherwise pursue extremist views on immigration.
We must work together to keep our community safe and prosperous. That means respecting the separation of powers among the branches of government and not going it alone or shooting from the hip. It means not engaging in the rhetoric of fear.
I will have more to say about the sheriff’s office and immigration policy in the coming days.”
Howard and Tolbert will face off for the Erie County Sheriff’s seat in this year’s November Election.
Cuomo will seek a third term as governor in 2018 and is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020.