2017-02-01 / Political Page

Trump’s Travel Ban Adjusted

Looking back, President Trump’s travel ban, which had been designed to keep terrorists out of this country, was concentrated on seven nations said to be “predominantly” Muslim. The White House decided to ease back on those nations, saying the ban would not apply to residents who possessed green cards granting their permanent residence in the US, according to The New York Times. Later on, the Department of Homeland Security issued an order declaring legal residents exempt from the temporary ban.

According to the Daily News, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said “lawful permanent residents” from the seven banned countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen would now be allowed into the US.

President Trump stated that “…we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border.”

Green card holders from the seven barred nations had been detained at US airports and taken off flights overseas, but would now be allowed to enter the US.

As one outgrowth of the situation, which included protest demonstrations and criticism of Trump’s activities, Senator Schumer, the Democratic Senate Minority Leader, and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, announced they would introduce legislation to repeal Trump’s executive order that bars travel from targeted countries for 90 days.

TRUMP TRAVEL BAN SPARKS CHAOS AT JFK, WORLDWIDE: An order by President Donald Trump aimed at blocking funds from going to “sanctuary cities,” and also blocking many foreigners from entering the United States for 120 days, combined last Saturday where a crowd of thousands of protesters massed at Kennedy Airport and jammed up operations temporarily.

The following day a federal judge in Brooklyn, moved by pleas by many refugees who had been trapped at the airport, (and “across the United States,” The New York Times reported Trump’s order.

Several newspapers reported the situation at JFK was being felt “around the globe.” Meanwhile, Trump explained his order was not aimed at blocking families trying to escape the slaughter in Syria. He said the order was instead aimed at keeping out “radical Islamic terrorists,” according to the Times.

Trump continued: “We don’t want them (terrorists) here…we only want to admit those into our country who will support our country.”

Trump had also explained that he sought to block funds that go to sanctuary cities, such as New York, because they use those funds to aid immigrants. But the rest of the order he was imposing barred entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries that are linked to terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. But Trump avoided talking about the widespread chaos that his order caused. Governor Andrew Cuomo, reacting to Trump’s order, directed state agencies to assist anyone detained in New York, “and ensure their rights were protected.”

PERALTA JOINS IDC: State Senator Jose Peralta (D–Queens) issued the following statement last week:

“As a valued community leader in our district, I wanted to inform you that I have decided to join the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in the New York State Senate.

“Over the past few years, the IDC has demonstrated its ability to deliver real results for constituents – in the form of progressive policy initiatives such as paid family leave, and the increase in the State minimum wage, as well as delivering tangible financial assistance to community organizations who are direly in need of State funding. Our district deserves the same level of support that other IDC districts have enjoyed as of late.

“This has been a very difficult decision for me, and one that I have not taken lightly. In response to the current political climate and very real threats facing our community from Washington, I decided that now is not the time for inaction. Now more than ever, we must unite to ensure that the values we hold dear to our hearts are protected in Albany.

“Nothing changes for you; my door is always open. We intend to provide the same, if not better, level of services to our constituents that we always striven to achieve.”

NOLAN OPPOSES NEW CONSTRUCTION AT JACKSON AVE.: “I am concerned about the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s plans to deck over the LIRR tracks at Jackson Avenue between 11th and 21st Streets,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “I oppose developing the site with the buildings currently proposed – too large, too tall and too high of a floor area ratio.”

The proposal might permit heights over 125 feet, Nolan added, saying – “Additionally; EDC is suggesting re-zoning of the area as the expenses of decking would force a developer to build higher in order to make a profit. Combined with an affordable housing effort attached to this development, the buildings may be upwards of 50 to 60 stories or higher.” The lawmaker continued.

“This project has a high probability to be outsized and not right for Long Island City. I oppose such overdevelopment. Considering the size of the site and its proximity to other large-scale developments in Long Island City, there must be a better plan to increase basic services before such large-scale development is considered,” said Nolan. Nolan previously opposed massive tall towers at other LIC locations, including those owned by the MTA and private developers. She opposes the zoning that led to hotel/homeless shelter construction in LIC as well, she said.

Nolan had previously called for a community planning study of Western Queens, including more schools, health facilities, police precinct modernization, reopening of the closed LIC firehouse, additional parkland, car parking, bus route expansion and other improvements.

In April 2015, Assemblywoman Nolan announced her opposition to the decking of the Sunnyside Yards site. She stated, “This new decking proposal must be examined in the context of the large-scale development in Long Island City. For example, during rain storms, the city’s sewer system overflows raw sewage into the Newtown Creek, and this development will only add to that pollution. I feel that we are now playing catch-up. Our schools remain the most overcrowded in the city and every subway rider knows the daily overcrowded conditions on the 7, E, F, M, N, Q and R,” said Nolan.

Nolan pledged to work with other local elected officials, community boards, civic and business groups, and residents in opposition to these ill-advised, poorly planned projects. She said the NYC Economic Development’s RFP (request for proposal) clearly states that this is an effort to build a very large building: “The Site is located within a M1-5/R7X zoning district, though it is anticipated that the Project will require rezoning and other land use actions to achieve the Project Goals,” (page 5). More information on the RFP can be found here: https://a856cityrecord.nyc.gov/RequestDetail/20170113021

CROWLEY CHARGES HOUSE REPUBLICANS’ ‘BILL ATTACK ON WOMEN’S HEALTH’: Rep. Joe Crowley (D–Queens, the Bronx), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, released the following statement after house Republicans “rushed through legislation” last week “that would expand restrictions on federal insurance coverage of abortion and prohibit use of tax credits to buy private insurance that includes abortion coverage.”

“It is distasteful that one of the first pieces of legislation taken up by the House Republican conference is a blatant attack on women’s health. This bill would put the government in the middle of Americans’ health care choices, even those as simple as which insurance plan to buy, putting at risk the health and safety of millions of women and their families across the nation.”

Crowley added, “There are dozens of other issues President Trump and congressional Republicans should focus their time and efforts on. If attacking women’s health is what Republicans plan to do with their majority, we should all be seriously concerned.”

MEEKS, KATZ, RE-OPEN CITIZENSHIP/ IMMIGRATION OFFICE IN QUEENS: US Representative Gregory Meeks and Borough President Melinda Katz reiterated on January 24th their call for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to re-open its Queens Field Office, which has been closed since it was displaced from its full-service Long Island City site to Lower Manhattan two years ago. Katz also proposed relocating the Queens Field Office to the vacant space available in the Addabbo Federal Building in Jamaica.

“My office has helped thousands of constituents with their immigration matters,” Meeks said. “Yet never before have my constituents shown as much concern about their immigration status due to the incoming administration. Hearing their well-founded concerns, Borough President Katz and I are pressing USCIS to reopen its field office to fulfill this clear need. We believe that families should be well-informed, and they deserve comprehensive assistance so they have the best opportunity to keep their families together and whole.”

Katz added: “Queens is home to over 2.3 million residents, at least 48% of whom were born abroad. Many people – both citizens and non-citizens – are feeling tremendous uncertainty about the future. I’ve long proposed the existing Addabbo Federal Building in Jamaica as an ideal, permanent location for the long-displaced Queens Field Office to enhance customer service and better meet demand. Its optimal location already hosts a federal agency, has vacant space, and has abundant access to mass transit. I urge USCIS to further consider Jamaica for a permanent Queens Field Office, and render my office ready to host or assist in facilitating further development of this viable option.”

USCIS Field Offices handle non-asylum related applications, including citizenship and green card applications and more. USCIS field offices do not conduct immigration enforcement. Currently, the only operational field offices within USCIS District 3 are located in Lower Manhattan and Holtsville, Long Island, requiring long, onerous travels for customers from Queens.

USCIS first opened the Queens Field Office in a 48,000 sq. ft. space in Long Island City in January 2012 with the intent to decentralize and “provide services where our customers live.” While operational, the Queens Field Office in Long Island City served high numbers of customers, averaging 180 naturalization applications and 130 adjustment of status applications per day. In January 2015, however, USCIS temporarily closed the Queens Field Office due to a massive flood and relocated it as a separate unit at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, where it has remained ever since.

Katz first proposed relocating the USCIS Queens Field Office to the Addabbo Federal Building in Jamaica (which currently hosts the US Social Security Administration) in March 2016 while on a site visit hosted by Representative Meeks with the US General Services Administration. Representative Meeks’ tour included discussions about planned renovations to several vacant floors available for use by federal agencies and local organizations. In a letter to USCIS headquarters in April 2016, Katz formally recommended the Jamaica site as an optimal option for a permanent location for its Queens Field Office.

ADDABBO’S STATEMENT ON MAYOR DE BLASIO’S BUDGET PROPOSAL: State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. released a statement on Mayor de Blasio’s budget proposal. “The details of Mayor de Blasio’s $84.7 billion proposed budget must be examined closely to ensure its not a continuation of the wasteful spending we have seen in the past under his administration, such as when dealing with the rising homeless crisis and DHS,” Addabbo said.

“The Mayor has also shown his lack of confidence in his relationship with the state legislature, citing that “uncertainties” in the State’s budget which could negatively impact the city, yet shows no initiative to improve those relations. I am hopeful that over the course of budget negotiations in Albany and the city, the both administrations can work towards a working relationship that benefits our people.”

DEMOCRATS BLAST TRUMP FOR DUMPING MEXICO WALL COST ON US TAXPAYERS: Recently, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders that would force US taxpayers to pay for an unnecessary wall along the US-Mexico border and block federal funding to sanctuary cities, including New York City. As you would expect, several Democratic Party lawmakers sharply disagreed with the Republican president and issued statements blasting Trump. The Dems’ statements follow.

US Senator Charles Schumer, Democratic Minority Leader: “The only real solution to reform our immigration system is to pass comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million. President Trump’s plans are based on ‘alternative facts’ and do nothing to keep us safe or fix our immigration system in a humane, pragmatic and effective way.”

Congress Member Joseph Crowley, House Democratic Caucus Chairman: “These executive orders are an inhumane attack on immigrant families and communities. If the president was actually serious about tackling our nation’s broken immigration system, he would join Democrats in supporting comprehensive reform that strengthens border security in an intelligent way. Instead, he’s chosen to deny the fact that our border is more secure than ever in order to push forward a border wall that will cost American taxpayers billions of dollars and to punish cities that not only welcome immigrants openly, but that encourage productive relationships between law enforcement and the immigrant communities they serve. House Democrats will continue to stand up against this type of xenophobia and will continue to fight for commonsense immigration reform.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: “If there was ever any doubt about whether Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric truly reflected his intentions, today’s Executive Orders affirm that his agenda will take our country down a dangerous and divisive path. Instead of finding solutions for our broken immigration system, President Trump’s reckless decisions to build a costly wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, attack sanctuary cities, persecute immigrants, and restore the deeply flawed Secure Communities program, will only fuel division and foster unfounded fears. Let’s be clear, these proposals are driven by the false narrative that immigrants are criminals, yet what President Trump seems to forget is that America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants strengthen our economy, enrich our communities and uphold America’s ideals of family, inclusion and compassion. Today, this City Council reaffirms its commitment to doing everything in its power to defend the rule of law and support our immigrant communities. No wall, bullying, or fear-mongering will change that.”

City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside): “The executive orders President Trump signed today are unconscionable and un-American. The Statue of Liberty welcomes all to our great country with the line, ‘give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ but the executive orders signed today are a repudiation of these core American values. In Queens, we welcome immigrants, documented and undocumented, of all backgrounds and religions. As a result, we are one of the most diverse, vibrant, economically and culturally thriving counties in the nation. Instead whipping up fear and hate, President Trump could stand to visit his home borough again, and see the callousness and inhumanity of his actions today.”

Assembly Member Ron Kim (D-Flushing): “I’m not in a position to stop, or even challenge President Donald Trump’s draconian, unilateral measures against immigrants. However, I am in a position to push the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to do more in his proposed budget to protect our state’s immigrant communities. I urge Governor Cuomo to not just say New York is a home for immigrants, but prove it by providing the necessary funding for adult literacy, language access, legal defense programs, and the Dream Act.”

MALONEY: INVESTIGATE TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION BAN: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY- 12), senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called on the Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings to launch an investigation into how President Trump’s executive order banning and restricting immigration signed on Friday came to fruition.

In a letter the Congresswoman pointed out that “Although this order has been partially stayed by federal courts, it has already caused immense harm, confusion and costs to citizens and non-citizens, including green card holders. I remain shocked and appalled by the detention of individuals arriving at the US at major airports, including JFK in New York City. Some of those detained included Iraqi refugees who assisted our military during the war in Iraq. There are reports that colleges are instructing their international students not to fly home to visit their families during school breaks, for fear they will not be able to return. People who are studying, working and traveling abroad are now unsure if they will be able to return home based on their immigration status. It also appears that the executive order imposes an unconstitutional religious test on immigrants and refugees seeking entry to our country by giving priority to one religion over another.”

Maloney explained, “There is also great confusion about whether green card holders are affected by this executive order. According to reports, the Department of Homeland Security initially believed that green card holders were not impacted, but the agency was then overruled by White House political advisors, including Steve Bannon (former publisher of Breitbart.com). What is clear, however, is that green card holders are lawful permanent residents of the United States with constitutional rights to live and work here and have gone through many years of screening to earn their legal status.”

Congress Member Maloney further stated, “While I firmly believe that Congress must fully rescind this unconstitutional executive action, I also believe that this committee should immediately open an investigation and hold hearings on this executive order and its implications for country. I am deeply concerned and have serious questions about the process that led to this decision.”

She asked the committee to “investigate how such an action like this was signed” by looking into:

• What federal agencies were consulted, when were they consulted and what was their response;

• What guidance, if any, was developed for agencies, when was it distributed and to whom;

• What was the legal analysis used to justify this order and was it vetted by career attorneys at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel;

• Whether White House political staff inappropriately overruled agency lawyers, as some reports indicate; and

• What consideration was given to the human, economic and fiscal costs that will come about from this order.

MENG’S LEGISLATION TO STOP BAN: US Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) announced on January 29th that she will introduce legislation to stop President Trump’s “unconstitutional executive order that bans refugees from the United States.”

The No Funds for Unconstitutional Executive Orders Act, which Meng stated would be introduced this week, would prohibit any funds made available by Congress from being used to enforce the President’s refugee ban.

“The decision by a federal judge to temporarily block this unconstitutional and un- American executive order was a great victory,” said Meng. “But we must make sure that it is overturned for good, and this legislation would make that happen. I urge all my colleagues to support this bill.”

That afternoon, Meng began circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of the House, calling on them to co-sponsor her legislation.

CUOMO: ‘NATION OF BRIDGES NOT WALLS’: Governor Cuomo released a statement in response to President Trump’s executive order to ban immigrants from several Muslim countries, including Green Card holders and those with dual citizenship. Cuomo said, “I never thought I’d see the day when refugees, who have fled war-torn countries in search of a better life, would be turned away at our doorstep. We are a nation of bridges, not walls, and a great many of us still believe in the words, ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...’

“This is not who we are, and not who we should be.

“I have directed the Port Authority, the Department of State, and my Counsel’s Office to jointly explore all legal options to assist anyone detained at New York airports, and ensure that their rights are protected.

“America is a nation of laws, and those laws provide rights that must be respected and followed regardless of political ideology.”

The Governor further announced on January 29th that he has launched a confidential toll-free hotline for New Yorkers to report family members, relatives, friends or colleagues believed to be passengers on flights coming into the state, but who are missing or believed to be detained or travel restricted as a result of recent federal actions. They are encouraged to call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-888-769-7243. The hotline will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will offer translation services.

CROWLEY CONDEMNS TRUMP BAN OF REFUGEES: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joseph Crowley (D-NY) released the following statement today after President Trump signed a new executive order.

“It’s unconscionable that President Trump would close the door to the desperate children, families, and elderly who have been forced to flee their homes and countries because of unspeakable acts of violence and war. The United States has always been a haven for refugees, and denying relief to these individuals does not align with our values as Americans. It is made even worse that this executive order comes as we observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The first and foremost duty of our government is to protect the American people. However, protecting the American people and helping those fleeing tyranny, brutality, and oppression are not mutually exclusive. The refugees who come to the US already go through a rigorous and thorough vetting process that often takes years to complete.

“Vilifying refugees will not make our nation stronger or more secure. Neither will imposing a religious ban on individuals from predominantly Muslim countries. As a country, we are better than this and should not accept the Trump administration’s thinly-veiled intolerance as anything but Islamophobia.”

MALONEY SLAMS THREAT TO CUT ARTS, HUMANITIES FUNDING: In response to reports that the Trump administration is considering cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), released the following statement.

“Cutting or eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is a terrible idea that will do significant harm and absolutely no good. The NEA and the NEH represent .006 percent of our nation’s annual federal budget. Yet, these two agencies have enabled millions of people in communities all over the country to access, experience, and participate in the arts and humanities, while also generating very positive economic activity.

“The arts and humanities represent who we are as a society. They open minds, expand people’s imaginations and their knowledge, empower creativity, bridge cultural gaps, and so much more. Our nation needs more access to the arts and humanities, not less. Congress has the last say when it comes to the federal budget and I will be doing everything possible to make sure funding for the arts and humanities is preserved.”

NOLAN ON A CABARET LICENSE APPLICATION: Assembly Member Catherine Nolan has released a statement regarding the application by a local nightspot for a cabaret license, which is necessary for a dance or strip club.

“It has come to my attention that an establishment known as DOHA located at 38-34 31st Street in Long Island City is applying for a cabaret license. St. George’s Coptic Christian Church, which is right across the street, has expressed concerns which include patrons of the nightclub parking on church property, garbage buildup of beer cans and the fence around church parking lot being broken on several occasions.

“The quality of life for long-standing residents in Dutch Kills, Long Island City and the local community could be seriously diminished if this establishment is granted a license. We need to continue to create an environment that balances and respects the needs of both residents and businesses alike. Due to these reasons, I cannot support the cabaret or liquor licenses at this time.”

GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCES SERVICE ACADEMY NOMINATIONS: US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced on January 26th her nominations of candidates from New York City to the nation’s leading service institutions – the United States Air Force, Military, Naval and Merchant Marine Academies.

A selection committee formed by Senator Gillibrand chose eight nominees from a large group of qualified applicants. Decisions were based on criteria including academic record, leadership potential, and overall achievement. Final acceptance is determined solely by the service academies. Two of the nominees are from Queens, two each are from Brooklyn and the Bronx, and one is from Manhattan.

“Our service academies train and mentor top-tier officers who are committed to serving our country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These talented New Yorkers have shown honor, dedication and unique skillsets that will make them great assets to our nation’s service academies and armed forces. I am always honored to nominate courageous men and women with the opportunity to live their dreams and serve in our country’s armed forces.”

The United States service academies offer a first class education, as well as a chance for young people to serve our country upon graduation, as commissioned officers in the United States Armed Services.

Senator Gillibrand’s nominees from Queens are Justin DeoPaul and Justin Sells, both for the US Military Academy.

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