2018-06-27 / Political Page

I On Politics

CROWLEY: TRUMP’S EXEC. ORDER CONTINUES DETAINMENT OF FAMILIES: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement on President’s Trump executive order that continues the detainment of families:

“Our country has always been a beacon of light for those seeking safety and refuge. Instead of upholding these American values, President Trump has caged innocent babies and children. Tearing children out of the hands of their parents is immoral and inhumane, and should never have happened, let alone been an official policy of the United States.

“While this order stops the separation of children from their parents, it does not end the administration’s despicable policy of unreasonably detaining asylum seekers and families fleeing violence. And the legislation put forward by House Republicans this week doubles down on this policy not only by allowing indefinite detention, but also by removing court-ordered protections that ensure safe conditions for detained children. President Trump and Republicans are manipulating the law and claiming a false choice to justify their anti-immigrant ideology. It is utterly shameful.

“Instead of pushing legislation that endorses the Trump administration’s policy of detaining families, House Republicans should join Democrats in calling for an end to the policy and in making sure we reunite the families that have been ripped apart. The thousands of children who have spent days, weeks, and months without the love and support of their parents deserve nothing less.”

MALONEY, NADLER’S ‘KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER’ ACT: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) joined House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) and more than 190 of her colleagues on June 19 to introduce the Keep Families Together Act, HR 6135, a bill meant to stop the Trump administration’s cruel policy of family separation at the border.

The day after the introduction of the above bill, and after massive outrage around the world, the president suddenly reversed his administration’s policy with an executive order on June 20 barring the separation of families. He had previously said only Congress can change this policy. With Trump’s latest executive order, families will be detained together. Over 2,300 children have been taken in the past month, and a daily average of 41,000 adults are being held by ICE.

Council Member Maloney said, “We need to stop this inhumane, un-American policy immediately. Speaker Ryan needs to bring the Keep Families Together Act to the floor immediately for a vote. This cruelty is a new low, even for this administration.

“These families have travelled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to keep their children safe and away from the harm that awaits them at home. No one takes that harrowing journey lightly. No one leaves behind the only home they have known, their friends or their extended family if they have any other choice.

“Yet, instead of accepting these refugees with compassion, this administration is persecuting and prosecuting those fleeing danger, taking babies from their mothers’ and fathers’ arms causing irreparable trauma. There is absolutely no justification for this policy. It is cruelty for cruelty’s sake. This cannot be who we are.”

The Keep Families Together Act would keep families together by prohibiting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials from separating children from their parents, except in extraordinary circumstances. In these limited circumstances, separation could not occur unless parental rights have been terminated, a child welfare agency has issued a best interest determination, or the Port Director or the Chief Border Patrol agent of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have approved separation due to trafficking indicators or other concerns of risk to the child. It requires an independent child welfare official to review any such separation and return the child if no harm to the child is present. It imposes financial penalties on officials who violate the prohibition on family separation.

The bill would also limit criminal prosecutions for asylum seekers. By adopting the recommendation of the DHS Office of Inspector General, the bill delays prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry for asylum seekers and creates an affirmative defense for asylum seekers. It also codifies our commitment to the Refugee protocol prohibiting the criminal punishment of those seeking protection from persecution.

Additionally the bill would increase child welfare training for all CBP officers and agents on an annual basis, and establish public policy preference for family reunification; require DHS to develop policies and procedures allowing parents and children to locate each other and reunite if they have been separated. In cases of separation, it requires DHS to provide parents with a weekly report containing information about a child, and weekly phone communication.

MENG ON RELEASE OF MAN DETAINED AT GREEN CARD INTERVIEW: Congress Member Grace Meng (D-Queens) issued the following statement on June 19 upon the release of Xiuqing You, of Flushing, by order of a federal judge: “The ruling to release Xiuqing You is wonderful news. His fight is not finished, but I’m very happy for his wife and two young children. I’m also pleased to have intervened in his case. But as we welcome this development, let’s not forget about the many other families who still remain separated tonight.

I thank all my colleagues who signed the letter we sent to ICE and I thank the Asian American Federation for their work as well.”

NYS DREAM ACT A GREAT INVESTMENT FOR ECONOMY: On June 19, NYS Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Deputy Leader Jeff Klein and NYS Senator Jose Peralta released “Keeping the Promise of New York: The Economic Case for the New York State DREAM Act,” a report examining the positive—and practical—benefits that the passage of the New York State DREAM Act will bring to New York. The DREAM Act, sponsored by Peralta, will allow undocumented immigrants to receive state financial aid for college.

To qualify for the state’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), students will have had to attend a New York high school for two or more years at the time of graduation, or obtaining a GED. The proposal will also establish the DREAM Fund to receive and disburse private donations to fund scholarships. Additionally, it will also allow families to open a New York State 529 college saving account regardless of their immigration status.

Currently, only 5 to 10 percent of the 4,550 undocumented students graduating from high school each year attend college because of their ineligibility to apply for TAP and other forms of financial aid. The DREAM Act would require an additional $20 million in funding each year, less than a mere 2 percent expansion of the total state TAP program, which costs more than $900 million annually. TAP awards provide $5,000 annually for four-year colleges and $4,000 for two-year colleges.

Since 2001, undocumented New Yorkers have been eligible for in-state tuition at CUNY and SUNY colleges. New York became the fourth state to offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented students, however, they are still not eligible for state financial aid.

The report points out:

 A maximum $20,000 award granted to a student will result in the collection of $156,000 in state and local taxes paid per student over a 40-year career. That’s 7.8 times the initial investment.

 According to a Fiscal Policy Institute preliminary analysis estimating the cost and benefits of the New York State DREAM Act, DREAMers generate $1.4 billion in economic activity for New York State, and contribute $115 million in state and local taxes.

 A $20,000 investment in one DREAMer’s four-year college could create $1 million in increased income and generate up to $1 billion in earnings and economic activity in their lifetime.

 College graduates earn between $10,000 and $25,000 more in wages per year when compared to those without a college degree.

A majority of DREAMers will continue to live and work in New York State.

STRINGER FINDS RISING BULLYING IN SCHOOLS, NO SUPPORT: New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a new report on June 18 outlining the stark state of mental health and social services in our public schools, and data that illustrates a rise in bullying among city students.

Stringer’s new report, “Safe and Supportive Schools: A Plan to Improve School Climate and Safety in NYC,” presents a review of current data related to school safety—including a jump in bullying, and an alarming level of arrests and handcuffing of students. Based on the findings of the report and the audit, Comptroller Stringer is calling for increased social supports in city schools, an expansion of social-emotional learning advisories to all schools, and universal school-based mental health services.

Stringer said, “Schools should be sanctuaries where every child feels safe and supported, but all too often, when students need help, they don’t receive the care they need.” He is calling for the city to prioritize supporting all students through small group advisories, a proven way to ensure each student has a trusted adult in school they can turn to. The city should also expand universal school-based mental health services. “If we’re going to give every child the care and support they deserve, we have to do it right.”

Increased and expanded social services are critical to address the growing prevalence of violence, bullying and punitive action uncovered by the policy report. In 2017, 82 percent of students reported that their peers harass, bully, or intimidate others in their schools, up from 65 percent in 2012, based on student responses to the most recent NYC School Survey. Similarly, roughly one in five students say they personally do not feel safe in or around their school.

Stringer noted that city schools are vastly under-resourced. The report found there is only one guidance counselor per 375 students and only one social worker per 612 students in our public school system.

In the 2016-17 school year, 725 schools serving students across all Grades—45 percent of all schools—had no social worker at all.

According to student surveys, 17 percent of students feel there is no adult in their school in whom they can confide.

In response, Comptroller Stringer’s report calls for expanding small group advisories, increasing in-school social workers and other critical staff as well as mental health services to accommodate students’ needs.

LEGISLATURE FAILS TO EXTEND AND EXPAND NYC’S SPEED CAMERA PROGRAM: NYS Senator Jose Peralta said, “With complete indifference, Republicans just killed a program that saved the lives of countless schoolchildren. They failed our kids and they failed our society. When children return to the classroom in September they will travel to and from school on more dangerous streets. It doesn’t make sense to get rid of a program that protects children. And what did they do? They eliminated it. They decided to play politics with children’s lives. I will keep on fighting tirelessly to ensure this program comes back, and it comes back bigger and better. I want to thank the advocates for all of their efforts, and to assure them that the war is not over until speed cameras are in place in 290 school zones throughout the city.”

ADDABBO BILL FOR SIGNAGE: ‘SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN AT PLAY’ PASSES: The New York State Senate recently approved legislation (S.3060) sponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. to better protect disabled children in New York City from being struck by motor vehicles while playing in their neighborhoods.

“It is already possible for the city to place signage in appropriate areas warning motorists that there are deaf or blind individuals living in the vicinity,” said Addabbo. “It only makes sense to expand this type of motorist awareness effort to let drivers know that children with special needs live or gather in certain areas. These children, for example, may dart out into the street or may not respond quickly to honking horns or other warnings.”

Under the bill, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) would be empowered to erect signs saying “Special Needs Children At Play” in areas where young people with physical, mental or developmental disabilities live or gather. This will provide a warning to motorists to be especially careful when driving thorough these areas and to be alert to children who may not immediately be able to get out of the way of fast-moving cars.

“This legislation has great potential to save the lives of children in our city, and prevent tragedy for both victims and drivers alike,” said Addabbo. “There have been reports of children with autism and other disabilities being struck by automobiles, and I believe appropriate signage would help to ensure that these unfortunate incidents are few and far between.”

Having passed the State Senate, the bill has now been sent to the Assembly and is under review by the Assembly Committee on Transportation.

CROWLEY HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET ‘GUTS MEDICARE’: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) released the following statement on the release of the House Republican budget: “Six months after President Trump and Republicans gave lavish tax breaks to special interests and the wealthiest one percent, House Republicans have now released a budget that will inflict even more damage on middle-class families. From gutting Medicaid and Medicare and repealing the Affordable Care Act to eliminating protections for those with pre-existing health conditions and slashing anti-poverty programs, retirement security, and education, Republicans are once again making American families pay the price,” Crowley said, adding:

“We need a budget that invests in America and the American people. A budget that rebuilds our crumbling infrastructure, makes college more affordable, ensures seniors have reliable health care and retirement security, and gives working families a real shot. This is the kind of budget Americans deserve and this is the kind of budget Democrats will fight for.”

REPS CALL ON TRUMP TO STOP CLOSING SOCIAL SECURITY FIELD OFFICES: On June 22 House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) and Reps. John Larson (D-CT), Danny Davis (D-IL), Elijah Cummings (DMD), Donald Beyer (D-VA), and Gwen Moore (D-WI) called on President Trump to stop closing Social Security field offices across the country. In the last year alone, the Social Security Administration (SSA) shuttered offices in Virginia, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Illinois.

As the Baby Boom generation ages and the number of Americans relying on Social Security benefits continues to rise, SSA field offices are in high demand. These offices provide a great service to the community, providing beneficiaries with resources and in-person assistance. Closing these offices creates an undue hardship on seniors and other beneficiaries who may face challenges in traveling further to get the help they need, as well as lead to overcrowding and longer wait times at other locations.

The members are calling on the president to stop the closures, and in the event that an office has closed, another should be opened to provide these much-needed services to the community.

“Now is the time to declare a moratorium on the closure of SSA field offices. In the event that a specific office must be closed due to unique circumstances, another one should be opened serving the same population in a nearby location—it should not be ‘consolidated’ into other offices, thereby reducing overall access to service in the local community. We urge you to act quickly before more damage is done to those seeking Social Security,” the members wrote in the letter.

MALONEY ENDORSED BY HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) endorsed on June 22 Democratic Congress Member Carolyn Maloney for reelection in New York’s 12th Congressional District. The Human Rights Campaign, with more than 3 million members and supporters, is the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.

“Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is a champion of fairness and equality for every American—including LGBTQ people,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “She boldly stands up to the Trump-Pence administration’s unconscionable attacks on the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups and is committed to passing the Equality Act—critically important federal legislation that would finally add clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community in our nation’s civil rights laws. HRC is proud to endorse Congresswoman Maloney’s bid for reelection, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in Congress in the fight for equality.”

“I am proud and humbled to have the support of an organization like the Human Rights Campaign. They are on the forefront of the battle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality. By cutting the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the US by half, by ripping families apart at the border, the Trump administration is encouraging those who would do harm to the LGBTQ community. I am committed, along with my Democratic colleagues, to fight this administration and for the civil rights of the LGBTQ community here and those fleeing persecution,” said Congress Member Maloney.

CROWLEY ENDORSED BY GOVERNOR CUOMO: Congress Member Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, was endorsed on June 20 by Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Joe Crowley is a proven leader and a tireless champion for Queens and the Bronx in Congress. Joe has led the way in fighting to improve the lives of all New Yorkers and send a New York Democratic majority to the House,” said Governor Cuomo. “He continues to deliver for New Yorkers through action and leadership—from fighting to make college affordable to increasing access to quality healthcare, to leading the charge on pay equity, and fighting to enact common-sense gun laws to protect New York’s families. Joe Crowley is a critical partner in our work to move New York forward and I know he will continue to fight to ensure all New Yorkers succeed.”

KATZ ON LATEST DEVELOPMENTS TOWARD LEGALIZING MARIJUANA: Borough President Melinda Katz stated the following in response to the latest developments toward the decriminalization, legalization and regulation of marijuana: “The New York State Health Department announced yesterday that its study commissioned by Governor Andrew Cuomo six months ago will recommend the state legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. The department also announced yesterday its new regulatory amendment to add opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.” Katz added that on June 19 “Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the New York City Police Department will change its enforcement policy on marijuana” starting on September 1, “and issue summonses instead of making arrests for most cases.

“These are major steps for the city and state of New York, bringing us closer to long-overdue legalization and justice reform. The State Health Department’s amendment offers a strong tool in the war against the opioid addiction epidemic, and its study commissioned by Governor Cuomo brings us closer than ever to statewide legalization. The unfairness in the city’s existing marijuana enforcement policy has been difficult to deny and has propagated unequal treatment within policing for far too long. Mayor de Blasio’s new citywide policy unveiled today will help reduce unnecessary arrests and enhance public trust.”

Last month, Katz, in a letter to the mayor, urged for the responsible decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. She also authored a piece on the matter last month in The Amsterdam News.

DA BROWN APPROVES OF NYPD’S REVISED MARIJUANA POLICY: “The police commissioner has chosen a wise middle ground,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “On the one hand, no state that has legalized recreational or medical marijuana has legalized the public smoking of it—an activity that can pose public health and safety hazards. On the other hand, many have been concerned about the level of enforcement and the impact on those charged. By choosing this sensible path, by which only the presence of limited aggravating factors will justify an arrest, the Police Department will continue to have the ability to control the activity without the majority of those committing the offenses being arrested and put through the system.

“These matters can be adequately resolved in the Summons Part without the individual being convicted of a crime. While the means to the end may be different, the end remains substantially the same. Currently only a handful of those charged with marijuana offenses receive a criminal conviction. That will remain the case under the commissioner’s new policy.”

CROWLEY: HOUSE-PASSED GOP FARM BILL ABANDONS HUNGRY AMERICANS: House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) issued the following statement on June 21 after House Republicans passed their partisan Farm Bill:

“Today, House Republicans chose to abandon rural communities and hungry Americans across the country. This partisan bill does nothing to help our country’s struggling farmers and leaves families to fend for themselves by gutting the critical anti-hunger benefits they rely on.

“Instead of continuing their attacks on vulnerable Americans, Republicans should join Democrats in our efforts to lift up families and expand opportunities for all. Democrats stand ready to work on behalf of the American people, the question is: why aren’t Republicans?”

ADDABBO BILL TO EXTEND SOLAR TAX ABATEMENT CLEARS STATE LEGISLATURE: Under a bill recently approved by the State Senate and cosponsored by NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., New York City residents who install solar generating systems in their homes and buildings will continue to be eligible for a real property tax abatement to recoup some of their costs until March 15, 2021.

“Solar energy is an important component of our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve our overall environment,” said Addabbo, who is a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “Encouraging residents and other property owners to make their buildings solar-friendly also has other benefits, such as reducing energy bills and helping to create more jobs in our growing ‘green’ economy.”

The Solar Panel Tax Abatement program was scheduled to sunset next March 15, 2019. The bill, co-sponsored by Addabbo, extends it to 2021. In New York City, owners of one, two and three-family homes are eligible for the tax abatements, as well as Class Two residential properties, which include buildings with more than three units, as well as condominiums and cooperatives. Class Four properties, including office buildings, factories, stores, hotels and lofts, may also participate in the solar panel tax abatement program.

Depending on individual costs, applicants who install eligible solar generating systems on their properties may receive a tax abatement limited to five percent of their expenditures, the amount of real property taxes payable in that tax year, or a flat cost of $62,500.

“This bill has also been approved by the State Assembly, and will be sent to Governor Cuomo for his final consideration,” said Addabbo. “I look forward to continued opportunities for local home and building owners to invest in solar generating systems and help our city create a cleaner and greener environment for all of us.”

For more information on the existing solar panel tax abatement program, residents may visit www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/incentives/solar.shtml.

MENG HAILS PILOT PROGRAM TO PROVIDE HALAL AND KOSHER LUNCHES: Congess Member Grace Meng (D-Queens) hailed a $1 million pilot program included in New York City’s new budget that will provide halal and kosher lunches in New York City schools: “I have long called for halal and kosher meals to be made available in New York City schools and I’ve made similar calls on the federal level as well,” said Meng. “This pilot program is great news and I’m pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will finally have lunch options that adhere to their dietary restrictions. Earlier this month, I sent a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asking him to provide halal and kosher meals to students as part of the city’s school lunch program, and I thank him for agreeing to do so. Thanks to his efforts, students will finally have access to these meals. This pilot program is the right step forward in creating a more inclusive approach to school lunches in our city. Students should feel welcomed at their schools, and including different dietary options is a critical element to ensuring that no one goes hungry. I’m proud to applaud this new program, and look forward to this initiative benefiting students throughout our city.”

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