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Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Cuomo, legislators must do more to protect New York’s immigrants

Many immigrants are living through a period of intense fear and trauma.

But they are rising up against President Donald Trump with a defiant rallying cry: We are here to stay and here to fight.

Here in New York, the state budget passed last week was a crucial but missed opportunity for Albany to say to our immigrant communities: We support you.

Indeed, our state’s leaders should demonstrate clearly which side of history they are on, and do more to help immigrant New Yorkers who are fighting for their lives.

To be fair, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his chamber did some critical work, and the final budget is substantially more humane because of their efforts.

But overall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature failed to deliver basic protections for New York’s immigrant communities. With Trump’s White House continuing to push an aggressive anti-immigrant agenda, Cuomo and the state Legislature should use the rest of the legislative session to make things right.

The budget failed yet again to ensure basic access to college for the Dreamers, who are capturing the hearts of our nation right now as they fight against Trump’s cruel decision to end the DACA program that allows them to stay in the U.S.

The New York Dream Act would simply provide common sense access to financial aid—similar to what is ensured by California, Texas, New Mexico, Washington state and Minnesota. New Jersey is poised to adopt a similar measure.

Our elected officials in state government must also restore access to driver’s licenses for all. Many immigrant New Yorkers have no access to a license and must drive without one to get to work or drop their kids at school. New Yorkers making up the fabric of our communities are being detained for minor traffic violations. The result? They face possible deportation just for living and working to help our economy and our communities thrive.

While Trump has doubled down on hatred of immigrants, he has padded the pockets of large corporations and the ultrawealthy through an enormous tax cut. His anti-immigrant policies, which put billions in the hands of private immigrant-detention companies, are a boon to these bad actors and their investors, which include New York–based firms like JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock.

Cuomo and the Legislature should recognize their fiscal and moral obligation to respond to Trump’s corporate-tax giveaways by making the super-rich and Wall Street pay their fair share. New York can and should increase taxes on the highest earners, close the carried-interest loophole that unfairly benefits hedge-fund managers and private-equity firms, and impose a “clawback” tax on publicly traded companies that got enormous tax breaks but haven’t created jobs or raised pay.

Such progressive revenue measures could easily yield $6 billion for the state. Some of that revenue could be used to fund more adult education for immigrants; the expansion of legal services for immigrants facing deportation; a more robust Child Health Plus system, which is a national model for providing coverage to all children regardless of immigration status; and increased efforts by the Department of Labor to protect immigrant workers facing exploitation and abuse.

By investing in New York’s immigrant communities, our state’s political leaders will be investing in a better, stronger and more vibrant future for us all.

Deborah Axt is co-executive director and Theo Oshiro is deputy director of Make the Road New York, a community organization in New York serving immigrants.