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Shooting of NYPD officers revives push to end ‘sanctuary’ policy

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(The Center Square) — The shooting of two NYPD officers by an accused Venezuelan migrant who allegedly entered the country illegally has rekindled a push to scrap the city’s “sanctuary” policy.

On Monday, NYPD officers Richard Yarusso, 26, and Christopher Abreu, 26, were allegedly shot and injured by Bernardo Castro Mata, 19, who was suspected of being involved in violent “snatch and grab” robberies targeting women by suspects on motorbikes.

Authorities said the officers pulled over Mata, who was allegedly driving a scooter without a license plate, but he dropped the vehicle and ran away on foot. The officers caught up with him, but he allegedly pulled out a firearm and shot both of them. The officers returned fire and shot him in the ankle, the NYPD said. Both officers, as well as the suspect, are expected to recover from the gunshot wounds, authorities said.

Mata allegedly entered the country illegally through Eagle Pass, Texas, in July 2023, and was released pending immigration proceedings on May 6, according to published news reports, which cited U.S. immigration officials. His last known address was a taxpayer-funded migrant shelter in the former Courtyard Marriott Hotel near LaGuardia Airport in Queens, authorities said.

The incident has rekindled calls on the White House to secure the U.S.-Mexico border amid the ongoing surge of asylum seekers, and to end New York City’s “sanctuary” policy that restricts local law enforcement from cooperating with immigration crackdowns.

“President Biden could take executive action today to secure our southern border, but instead we have cops getting shot by teenagers who illegally crossed the border,” U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler, a New York Republican, posted on social media in response to the shooting. “This is insanity.”

Lawler said the incident should prompt Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, to take up the House Republicans’ border security bill, which the lower chamber approved last year.

“The gunman who shot 2 NYPD officers is an illegal immigrant who was in New York under Democrat’s taxpayer funded sanctuary status,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Republican, said in a statement posted on social media. “We are now in the last week of session. Republicans are ready to end sanctuary NOW.”

The co-chairmen of the New York City Council’s Common Sense Caucus, Councilors Joe Borelli and Robert Holden, said they plan to introduce a proposal this week to repeal the city’s sanctuary policy.

“Those not supporting it are only protecting violent criminals like this,” Borelli said in a social media post.

New York City has seen an influx of more than 160,000 asylum seekers over the past two years amid a historic surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. The city spent $1.45 billion in fiscal year 2023 on migrant costs and expects to spend $10 billion on migrants over the next two fiscal years, according to the Adams administration.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said the city’s sanctuary status should be changed to allow migrants charged with crimes to be turned over to federal immigration officials for deportation to help weed out the “small numbers” of migrants who commit major crimes.

NYPD has cited shootings, shoplifting rings and violent assaults on NYPD officers as examples of alleged crimes being committed by migrants, which has sparked public criticism that the influx of new arrivals are bringing criminals with them.

Adams, who has been open to changes in the controversial policy, is reportedly in talks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials about restricting the sanctuary policy.

“Senseless act of violence, a total disregard for life,” Adams told reporters at a briefing, where he held up Yarusso’s bullet-proof vest, saying it saved his life. “Our officers responded with a level of discipline, focus professionalism and today we thank God.”

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