“Green Lights,” White Supremacy and Immigration in Erie County

by Duncan Kirkwood

We are at a pivotal time in our country. While most minorities know that White supremacy has never gone away in this county, it has not been this overt in decades. People who have racial hatred, or fears are receiving cues from the leader of our nation. Most recently the issue of immigration has become a point of national contention. The federal government is literally putting families and children in cages across our country.

All over the country there is an attack on brown skinned immigrants. The national Democratic party and good hearted people from other parties have taken a stance to support and protect immigrants. Locally our New York State Democratic legislature has passed a “Green Light” bill which allows for undocumented immigrants to obtain a license. Our local representative Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who is the leader of the Democratic Caucus in the NY state assembly, was a strong supporter of it passage.

But here in Erie County leaders of our county government have joined forces to refuse to enforce this law.

County Clerk Mickey Kerns who is a Democrat that functions as a Republican said that he will not enforce this law and went as far as to sue the Governor over the constitutionality of the bill

Republican County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw called for citizens to use Erie County’s whistleblower hotline to report undocumented immigrants trying to apply for a license. This way he could forward the information to ICE. The County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who is a DEMOCRATIC party leader said “There are many significant legal issues that exist with the law, including the question of its constitutionality and the necessity of ensuring non-citizens are prevented from voting. Ultimately I do not believe this law benefits the people of Erie County and I cannot support it.”

Poloncarz also directed the County Attorney’s Office to represent Mickey Kerns as he challenges the constitutionality of the bill. So even though Majority Leader Crystal People-Stokes and the Democrats in the state legislature support this bill, our Democratic County Executive is siding with the Republicans. Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to say Mark Polincarz is a White Nationalist or a closet Trump Democrat, but I would say he wants to be re-elected. Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 in Erie County, but thousands of them crossed over to vote for Trump and Sheriff Howard.

This November, Mark Poloncarz is going to need those Trump Democratic voters in Erie County. So it makes sense he would take a position against immigrants in hopes to try to keep those voters from going to Lynn Dixon. The “politics as usual” mindset is harmful to our community, and it shows that he is not a real progressive leader. I just want people to understand, that we do not live in Arizona or Texas. When we are talking about immigrants in Western NY, we are not talking about Mexican Americans. We are talking about the Burmese, the Ethiopians, the Somalian, the Bangladesh and others.

So the issue of “mass undocumented immigrants” isn’t even a real issue here in Western NY. The Republicans and Mark Poloncarz are manufacturing concern in order to play to the Trump Democrats in Erie County. We need to be real about the fact that Erie County is becoming more and more of Trump Country, and we need some leaders who will stand against it, not try to pander to it for votes.