With the Trump Administration focused on a range of immigration enforcement policies, Assembly Democrats have passed a series of bills that would protect immigrants’ private information, prohibit profiling by local police departments, and make it more difficult to deport undocumented New Yorkers for misdemeanor crimes.
Alongside these new bills, the Assembly majority also passed the controversial DREAM Act for the sixth consecutive year to provide financial aid for the children of undocumented New Yorkers. However, based on reactions to this year’s bill, it likely faces the same obstacle since 2011 — the Republican-controlled Senate.
“There are tons of middle-class families in the state of New York who are struggling,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “My primary obligation …really the position of our members is, let’s make sure we’re taking care of the hard-working middle-class taxpayers who are struggling right now.”
On February 6, the day these immigrant rights bills passed the Assembly, Heastie was joined by the bills’ sponsor Assemblyman Francisco Moya, D-Jackson Heights, and co-sponsor Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, D-Soundview, chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition, Empire Justice Center, Make The Road New York, Minkwon Center and other supporting groups.
The New York State Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (A.3039) would eliminate some financial obstacles for children of immigrants by giving them access to the New York Sate Tuition Assistance Program and other financial aid if they attended an approved New York state high school, graduated and then went on to apply to a university within five years.
Under the DREAM Act, those students could also be approved for TAP if they attend a state-approved program for an equivalency diploma, and applied to attend a New York state university within five years.
“Young DREAMers who came to the U.S. through no fault of their own, often too young to have ever known any other country as home, go to school and pledge allegiance to the flag, just like their peers,” said Moya. “Unlike their peers, after graduating, the next step towards a college degree is entirely out of reach without financial aid available to help finance their education.”
The bill has 79 Assembly members signed on as co-sponsors or multi-sponsors, but several vocal opponents as well.
Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino voted against the DREAM Act and the Liberty Act, saying, “I think those who are concerned about the safety of our country also want a fair path to citizenship for those who want to come here to work hard and contribute,” Garbarino said. “However, what Assembly Democrats rolled out today is nothing but a politically-charged agenda which uses taxpayer dollars to disregard our immigration laws and provide free legal services and college tuition to illegal immigrants.”
A series of bills being proposed under the Liberty Act would create far-reaching protections for undocumented immigrants here in New York, in light of the Trump Administration’s push to secure the nation’s borders and remove what President Trump calls dangerous “illegal.”
The primary function of the New York State Liberty Act (A.3049-b), sponsored by Moya, is to ensure New Yorkers are not unnecessarily questioned about immigration status when seeking state or local service. The bill also prohibits state and local law enforcement from stopping, questioning, investigating or arresting a person based on their perceived immigration status. The Liberty Act would also prohibit state and local agencies from using resources to assist the federal government by creating or maintaining a database or registry based on race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national and ethnic origin. The bill also provides a right to legal counsel for immigrants facing deportation who cannot afford a lawyer.
Crespo is sponsoring another bill (A.4881) that would reduce the maximum sentence for misdemeanor offenses by one day, from 365 days to 364 days. Under federal immigration law, a one-year sentence can trigger deportation proceedings and removal from the United States in many circumstances, even when the person spent no time in jail at all. Further, an actual sentence of one year in jail for a misdemeanor conviction disqualifies New Yorkers from asylum.
“New York State will rise up in resistance to actions of the White House [and] become the first sanctuary state and refuge for the tired, the poor, and all the huddled masses,” Moya said.
A final piece (A.4882) of the Liberty Act would protect immigrants’ private information that they use to obtain a IDNYC card — an identification card for homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued IDs.
After passing by a comfortable majority in the Assembly, several lawmakers released statements about the Liberty Act, expressing their anger and concern for a bill they say encourages illegal immigration.
Assemblywomen Nicole Malliotakis, R-South Shore, expressed concern to the Assembly that this bill would protect illegal immigrants from deportation, prohibit state and local law enforcement from complying with federal detainer requests, limit federal law enforcement access to individuals detained in state correctional facilities, and force taxpayers to foot the bill for incarcerated criminals.
“The number one responsibility of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens,” Malliotakis said. “Efforts to purposefully disregard that responsibility have been taken to an all-new level by the Assembly Democrats with legislation that harbors illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, including serious felonies, from deportation.”
Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, said, “As the son of an immigrant, I believe in the pursuit of the “American Dream.” However, spending state funds on those who broke the law and came to our state illegally is wrong.” Lopez continued, “I am a proponent of creating a better, more efficient path to citizenship for those who wish to come to our country in pursuit of a better life, but it must be done legally to collect benefits paid for by New York state residents.”
Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, R-South Huntington, voiced concern in a statement: “As the Assembly moves forward with the proposed immigration reform bills today, I believe we must tread carefully to implement an effective framework that values and welcomes our immigrant population.”
Lupinacci goes on to explain how Immigration policy is unclear, and that moving on to develop our own policy could result in a loss of the crucial federal funding the committees rely upon each year.
The Senate version of the DREAM Act, sponsored by José Peralta, is currently in the Higher Education Committee. The Liberty Act, sponsored by José Serranno, is currently in the Finance Committee. The question remains, will Senate Republicans take up these bills in the current political climate, or let them die quietly.
Moya hopes they will look past politics and try to help one of New York’s most vulnerable populations.
“I urge the Senate not to commit to the same undignified grandstanding, understand the bill before launching into straw-man arguments, and do good for vulnerable families by making New York a bastion for all,” Moya said.