On Monday, January 10th, Governor Cuomo presented several proposals of his 2017 State of the State agenda, launching the “New York Promise” agenda to advance social justice and affirm New York’s progressive values.
Among the Governor’s proposals and executive orders that were announced include:
- The launch of the “We Are All Immigrants” Initiative, included the “Empire State Immigrant Defense Project” that uses public-private partnerships to expand legal services for immigrants, an expansion of naturalization services offered by the state’s Office of New Americans, the Governor’s promise to advance the New York State DREAM Act to provide undocumented students with access to tuition assistance, and the launch of the “Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigrants” to assess the affectivity of state services and resources that support immigrant integration.
- The launch of a statewide “Hate Crimes Task Force” to investigate and deter incidents of bias and discrimination and the launch of “The Tolerance and Understanding Initiative” to further the state’s efforts to protect civil rights and combat hate speech through interfaith support.
- The signing of executive order 161 and 162, which respectively will end companies ability to ask for salary history, a measure taken to break the cycle of unfair compensation for New Yorkers, including women and minorities; and a mandatory disclosure by state contractors of data on the gender, race, ethnicity, job title and salary of all its employees in state contracts.
- Modernizing New York’s voting system through “The Democracy Project” by removing barriers to voter registration, allow early voting statewide, and adopt automatic voter registration and same day voter registration.
The following is a statement from Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition:
“We welcome Governor Cuomo's extensive agenda and wide-sweeping proposals to better the lives of New York's diverse communities, including its four million immigrants, as well as people of color, women, and other minorities.
“We commend the signing of executive orders (EO) 161 and 162. The signing of these executive orders mark a pivotal moment for our State and pits New York as a leader in the fight against racial and gender discrimination in the workplace.
“Furthermore, we applaud Governor Cuomo's proposal to modernize our state’s voting system by expanding early voting and removing barriers to voter registration. For far too long voters have had to navigate an arcane electoral system that often turns people away from the voting booths, with immigrants often the most affected.We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the State legislature to ensure that we can actualize and implement early voting, automatic and same day voter registration and e-voter books to empower our voters.
“We applaud the Governor on his quick and proactive response to the numbers of hate crimes, hate speech, and incidences of discrimination that have skyrocketed since November 9, 2016. The swift work to launch the “Hate Crimes Task Force” demonstrates our State’s responsiveness in a moment of crisis. Creating a safe way for immigrants to report such harmful and hateful acts is a meaningful gesture towards those who make our state stronger and more vibrant.
“We are also looking forward to hearing more details on the Empire State Immigrant Defense Fund. While we encourage and welcome involvement by all private and academic sector partners, we also note that a serious investment must be made in the immigration legal service provider field to make good on the Governor's promise of providing all immigrants with legal counsel. This will ensure that there are sufficient expert attorneys available to represent clients and mentor pro-bono attorneys, as well as allow the immigration bar to grow.
“Lastly, we want to see the Governor be truly inclusive in his efforts to help all of New York's students overcome barriers to higher education. We welcome the Governor’s continued support for the New York State DREAM Act to help New York’s undocumented students, but we call for the Governor to move beyond words to finally ensure the door of opportunity is open to the all of the thousands of students deserving of financial aid to finish their higher education.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo to truly make New York the shining example of progress in 2017 and the years to come.”
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.