Senate Democrats roll out resistance agenda

Gazette photo by Jonathan Forrester
Sen. Michael Gianaris, at podium, joins his fellow Democrats in the Senate to announce a series of bills meant to counter the actions of President Trump. The Senate Democrats are challenging members of the Independent Democratic Conference to vote with them to pass these “resistance bills.”


The Senate Democratic Conference has introduced their “resistance agenda,” to counter what they call “an assault on American values” by the Trump administration. The agenda includes two bills that harness protections for international SUNY and CUNY students, and prohibiting the Port Authority from manning the roll out of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban via executive order.

“We are standing with the majority of Americans. As President Woodrow Wilson once said ‘the history of liberty is a history of resistance,’” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said. “Now it is more imperative than ever that New York leads this resistance.”

Senate Democrats are proposing several initiatives to protect refugees, immigrants and foreign students from the provisions of Trump’s executive order on immigration signed recently. The order freezes refugee resettlement and entry into the U.S. from seven majority-muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The first bill, (S.3974) prohibits the Port Authority from supporting the executive action in any way, by means of using personnel and facilities at airports to detain the incoming travelers. Under this proposal, Port Authority police and employees, as well as NYPD officers and state troopers would be prohibited from providing any assistance to carrying out the executive order.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, is himself a second generation immigrant and wants New York to take up all legal means to resist the executive order. “President Trump’s executive order is as un-American as it gets,” Gianaris said. “The state of New York should not spend one penny in support of this unconstitutional federal effort and I will fight to make sure we don’t.”

New Jersey Senators Loretta Weinberg and Bob Gordon have also joined in this preventative measure for the Port Authority, which operates transportation facilities in New York and New Jersey and is overseen by both states. New Jersey legislators introduced a bi-state bill to expand Gianaris’ restrictions to all Port Authority operated airports which include John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Stewart, and Newark.

Additionally, legislation proposed by Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, D-Flushing, and cosponsored by Senator Roxanne Persaud, D-East New York, would prohibit SUNY and CUNY employees from inquiring about a student’s immigration status to assist in the federal government’s removal. Effectively, this bill (S.4079) would neutralize the efforts of some lawmakers at the state and federal levels to require that schools compile immigrant student data, including country of origin and their program enrollment.

According to Persaud, “SUNY is not there to police immigration.”

“New York state should be a leader in resisting Donald Trump’s hateful actions, not a willing accomplice,” Persaud said. “That is why we must act on my bill to ensure that SUNY and CUNY schools remain places of dignified higher learning, not mechanisms to spy on students.”

Stewart-Cousins called for unification of all Democrats in the Senate for speedy passage of these bills.

“We must stand up to the hatred and intolerance that is coming out of Washington D.C.,” she said. “Democrats will be taking action and trying to force our Republican and rogue Democratic colleagues to allow action on a number of important bills that would help protect our immigrant and refugee communities here in New York.”

When asked about “rogue Democrats,” and Republicans who might oppose the bills, Stewart-Cousins had a simple message: “I would ask them which side of the American dream are you standing on? The dream side, or the nightmare side?”