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Assembly Democrats push for New York as a sanctuary state


The New York Assembly moved Monday to establish New York as a sanctuary state, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

Assembly Democrats are backing measures that would give the entire state sanctuary status for immigrants.

One bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement from questioning or arresting a person based on their perceived immigration status or any suspected violation of federal immigration law. Another would ensure that people are not unnecessarily questioned about their immigration status when seeking state or local government services.

State and local government agencies also would have to keep the immigration status of clients private. People who are threatened with deportation would have an automatic right to legal representation.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya is the sponsor of many of the bills, which he said are needed more than ever with President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The order bars travel to the United States for people from seven majority Muslim countries, although it’s currently held up in court.

Assembly Democrats are calling the measures the Liberty Act.

“Nowhere should the philosophy inscribed in the Statue of Liberty be more pronounced than in the laws of the state in which she sits,” Moya said.

Assembly Democrats also once again approved the Dream Act, which provides college tuition aid to children of undocumented immigrants. They rallied in the Capitol’s historic million-dollar staircase.

Zuleima Dominguez, who attends CUNY’s Hunter College, came to the U.S. at the age of 7.

“It’s been extremely hard,” Dominguez said.

The measures are unlikely to pass in the state Senate, which is led by Republicans and a group of breakaway Democrats. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he’s not giving up, though.

“We hope that the good conscience of the Senate will do the right thing,” Heastie said.

But Assembly Republicans, in floor debate, portrayed the bills as being to the left of policies of former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said the measures put “illegals before law-abiding citizens,” and would require state and local officials to, in some cases, “violate federal law.”

“To sit here and debate for hours legislation that would protect individuals who are here illegally and committing crimes is really, frankly, I don’t believe what our constituents are sending us here to do,” Malliotakis said.

The state of California, where Democrats control all branches of government, also is moving toward establishing sanctuary status, despite threats from Trump that the state would lose federal funding.

Assemblyman Al Graf, a Republican from Long Island, worried about the defunding warnings, saying it’s like “playing chicken with a semi.”

“I think this is a mistake; it’s political theatrics,” Graf said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was at the Capitol but did not appear in public. A spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for reaction on the sanctuary status bills.