Immigration split in Erie Co. Sheriff race

Sheriff Candidates At Odds On Immigration

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The two men running to be sheriff of Erie County would have different policies when it comes to deputies questioning someone's immigration status.

Incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard, a Republican, put out a news release on Friday reiterating that his deputies can question if someone is in this country illegally whenever that officer feels it's appropriate.

"The Sheriff ordered all law enforcement personnel who have detained or are investigating persons involved in suspicious activity to continue inquiring about immigration status, which is the current policy and in full accordance with legal directives issued by the federal government," a campaign release said.

Howard said his deputies can question if someone is in the country legally even if he or she is a crime victim or witness.

"When they have reason to encounter people, (deputies) should not be hamstrung," Howard said.

WEB EXTRA: Watch Sheriff Howard's entire interview

Howard's move followed a new executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, that instructed troopers and other state employees to only inquire about or disclose someone's immigration status if it's part of illegal criminal activity. It specifically prohibited questioning someone's status when that person is a crime victim or witness.

Monday, 2 On Your Side reached out to Howard's challenger, Democrat Bernie Tolbert, so voters will know his position on this issue.

He sided with Cuomo and said he would instruct deputies to only question someone's immigration status if it's relevant to the criminal matter.

"You have to enforce the law, and I'm all for enforcing the law," Tolbert said. "And if there was a legitimate law enforcement responsibility that the sheriff had that impacted on a person's immigration status, then you might say it's fair to ask."

Howard and Tolbert will face off in the general election on Tuesday, November 7.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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