FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 6, 2017

Assembly to Pass New York State Liberty Act & DREAM Act
Legislation Protects & Empowers New York Immigrants


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Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the Assembly's expected passage of the New York State Liberty Package and DREAM Act, both are legislative measures that safeguard the well-being of immigrant communities, access to important services and the protections afforded immigrants under the Constitution. At a news conference on the Capitol's Great Western Staircase, Heastie was joined by members of the Assembly and representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition, Empire Justice Center, Make the Road New York and other immigrant advocacy groups.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and members of the Assembly Majority today announced the Assembly's intent to once again pass the New York State DREAM Act as well as sweeping legislation to protect New York's immigrant population. Sponsored by Assemblyman Francisco Moya, the New York State Liberty Act will ensure the fair and ethical treatment of New Yorkers by providing clarity and certainty for state and local officials in interactions with all citizens, including our immigrant populations. The DREAM Act, long an important Assembly Majority priority, will help advance the educational opportunities of immigrant children.

"For decades, New York's harbor welcomed millions of immigrants that helped shape our nation into the strong, diverse country it is today," said Speaker Heastie. "The Assembly Majority believes that the continued success of our state depends on ensuring that immigrants have access to the resources they need to make meaningful contributions to their communities without the fear of inappropriate deportation and other serious consequences."

"Immigrants are a vital asset to our nation and their contributions are undeniable in New York's communities, work force, colleges and universities," said Assemblymember Moya, sponsor of two of the bills. "Our conference has been championing the DREAM Act for years and the stakes have never been higher. We cannot stifle the potential of thousands of New York students in the name of moral high ground. The protections offered in the new proposal would ensure that interactions between individuals and law enforcement or state agencies focus on the matter at hand, rather than collecting unrelated immigration data. Discouraging individuals from reporting a crime or accessing benefits that may improve their lives and productivity is a disservice to everyone."

"Today's anti-immigrant political climate has threatened the livelihood of countless individuals across New York State," said Assemblymember Crespo, Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force and sponsor of two of the bills. "Immigrants make substantial contributions to our communities and are being scapegoated by the White House. Now more than ever, we must take a stand against those who wish to cast millions of hardworking people to live in the shadows."

"New York State's future and economic growth are dependent on a diverse, well-educated generation of students," said Assemblymember Deborah Glick, chair of the Committee on Higher Education. "Denying thousands of hardworking students access to higher education prevents them from fully participating in our economy and casts them to live a desperate existence of poverty. This legislation makes sense for all New Yorkers."

"The foreign-born population has a substantial impact on our State and Nation. These individuals contribute to economic output as well as job creation," stated Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the Task Force on New Americans. "I am the proud daughter of immigrant parents and have seen firsthand the benefits of immigration. Today we are taking a stand to ensure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to pursue their dreams regardless of race, religion, or immigration status."

The New York State Liberty Act

Although most immigration law is established by Congress in federal law, the Assembly Majority recognizes that there are policies that can be enacted in New York to encourage cooperation and foster positive relations between individuals and law enforcement as well other governmental agencies. By ensuring the fair and ethical treatment of all individuals in New York, including vulnerable immigrant populations, we can promote cooperation and trust between people and the government.

Accordingly, the bills the Assembly plans to pass today establish policies consistent with federal law and the state and federal constitutions for certain interactions between immigrant communities and state and local agencies. Assembly bill A.3049B, Moya would:

The bill complies with federal law and also sets forth constitutionally-permissible state and local procedures that will help assure fair and just treatment for everyone in New York State. Regarding detention, under the bill, a person alleged to be out of compliance with federal immigration law, and with no New York charges for which detention has been ordered, may be maintained in custody for pickup by federal authorities within 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) when the request for detention is accompanied by a judicial warrant, the person is charged with reentering the country illegally and has previously been convicted of a violent felony or class A felony, or the person is listed on the federal terrorism watch list. This protocol is similar to laws in place in New York City and other jurisdictions in the nation.

A second crucial component of the New York State Liberty Act would prohibit state and local agencies from expending resources to assist the federal government in the creation or maintenance of any database or registry based on race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin (A.4884, Moya).

Another bill the Assembly intends to pass today would reduce the maximum sentence for misdemeanor offenses by one day from one year to 364 days (A.4881, Crespo). By making this small change in New York law, thousands of immigrants could be potentially spared from deportation under federal law over certain lesser offenses. Some misdemeanor offenses can result in automatic deportation because of New York State's current sentencing standards, a harsh mandatory consequence for misdemeanor conviction. This bill would allow judges to use discretion in whether deportation is warranted for each individual case.

A final piece of the Liberty Act the Assembly plans to pass today would provide an explicit statutory framework to protect the confidentiality of information submitted in support of applications under the New York City identification card (IDNYC) program (A.4882, Crespo). Records submitted by applicants for the IDNYC program were accepted on a promise of confidentiality. Although access to this information through any inquiry should be denied under existing FOIL exemptions, such as the exemption for unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, this measure will provide additional assurance that such materials will not be disclosed under state and local freedom of information laws.

The New York State DREAM Act

The New York State DREAM Act would advance educational opportunities for children of immigrants by eliminating potential financial obstacles to obtaining state financial aid for undocumented students seeking to attend an institution of higher education (A.3039, Moya). Under the proposal, such students would be eligible for general financial aid awards, performance based awards or New York State's Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) if they:

To help immigrant families prepare for higher education expenses, the DREAM Act would also allow families to open a New York State 529 family tuition account under the New York State College Tuition Savings Program if they have an individual taxpayer identification number. Estimates show that of the roughly 4,500 undocumented students who graduate from New York High Schools every year, only 5-10 percent are able to pursue a college education because of financial burden.

"New York must stand strong as we face uncertainty in the coming years with anti-immigrant policies from the Trump administration, and the Liberty Bill helps us do just that. We applaud the NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly member Francisco Moya for their leadership on this bill that once again holds New York up as a leader in protecting and defending all of its residents" said Steve Choi, executive director, New York Immigration Coalition. "The Liberty Bill secures our most vulnerable New Yorkers from unjust policies.

Luis, a member of Make the Road New York and resident of Brentwood on Long Island said, "I came to this country in 2005 from El Salvador for a better life--especially so that my wife and I wouldn't have to face the political and gang violence in our country. Four members of her family have been killed by the gangs, and if we go back we'd be at risk. Now Donald Trump is attacking undocumented immigrants like us. We need leadership in New York to pass legislation that will keep our families together and protect our communities."

"Empire Justice Center is proud to stand with Speaker Heastie, Assemblymember Moya and the members of the Assembly Majority Conference today. New York needs to be a leader in protecting the rights, safety, and wellbeing of all New Yorkers. The goals of ensuring that immigrants are afforded basic due process and promoting trust between local and state agencies and the communities they serve is essential in a time where those relationships are gravely threatened," said Linda Bennett - Rodriguez, Senior Attorney, Empire Justice Center's Westchester Office."

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