The Rockland City Council voted April 13 against accepting a $7,000 grant from the U.S. Border Patrol with councilors saying they did not want to be affiliated with an organization that violates human rights.

Councilor Nate Davis said the Border Patrol has a terrible reputation. He said the agency is not just passively negligent but acts with actual cruelty. He said there is documentation of child abuse by Border Patrol which operates with a "culture of impunity."

Davis stressed that the abuses are a longstanding practice that began before President Trump came into office.

"This is just a bridge too far," Davis said of accepting the grant.

Councilor Ed Glaser also voiced opposition to seeking money from the Border Patrol.

"There will be some people who say we are a bunch of liberals and favor open borders," Glaser said. "This is not the case. It's not whether you enforce the law but how you enforce it."

Councilor Valli Geiger said she has enormous respect for Rockland Police Chief Christopher Young, who recommended the city apply for the money, but has enormous distrust of Border Patrol.

"I don't want to be partners with any organization that is unethical and racist," Geiger said.

The April 13 vote was 4-1 against seeking the money. Mayor Lisa Westkaemper voted to accept the grant.

Police Chief Young said the $7,000 being sought from the U.S. Border Patrol grant program had nothing to do with immigration enforcement.

He said the Border Patrol recognizes the coast is a point of entry for those who may attempt to gain access to the community for nefarious reasons, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and child exploitation.

He said officers working under this funding opportunity would "continue to build relationships with local business owners, ferry service employees and community members to enhance our response to a number of community concerns while also adding a deterrence at our points of entry for any persons who may wish to enter our community to cause harm."

"I want to make clear that this initiative is with the U.S. Border Patrol and not Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under no circumstances will Rockland Police Officers be asking for or checking the immigration status of any person. No checkpoints or roadblocks of any type will be put in place.

"These funds will be used to address the threats identified above and to enhance the department’s efforts in working with our community to continue to make it a safe and wonderful place to live and work," Young said in a written statement last week.

Several residents spoke out Monday night against the grant through emails and speaking during the online council meeting.

Becca Shaw Glaser of Rockland asked whether the city should be troubled by the embedding and blurring of lines between local police departments and federal agencies.

"One may say there is room for moral ambiguity, and at times that is true. Who among us lives a life with no ethical compromises? But there is nothing morally ambiguous, nothing neutral, about the United States Customs and Border Protection agency at this current juncture in U.S. history," she said.

"Right now we have a choice to make. Or rather, you five Rockland city councilors, have an opportunity to take a moral stance against taking money, or agreeing to cooperate any further with as heinous an agency as CBP. I believe that taking their money amounts to a tacit approval of their flamboyantly cruel policies and actions," Shaw Glaser said.

Former councilor and former state representative Elizabeth Dickerson, of Union, said when she was town manager of Limestone last year, that community's police department requested seeking a Border Patrol grant.

"I sat down with my chief and the border patrol officer. After introductions, the first words out of the (Border Patrol) officer's mouth were 'just imagine if the chief saw a family of towel heads walking on Main Street,'" Dickerson said.

Dickerson said the tenor and feel of the town changed dramatically after the grant was accepted.

Mike Shunney submitted an email opposing the grant, saying it would create a perceived adversarial relation with seasonal guests and tarnish Rockland's reputation.