Today, the New York Daily News published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo affirming New York's record of protecting immigrants' rights, as part of the annual "Daily News/CUNY Citizenship NOW!” program, which offers thousands of immigrants in New York City free immigration advice. Text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.
The state of New York has a long history of fighting for immigrants, from our commitment to helping newcomers find a path to citizenship to our efforts to prevent the exploitation of workers, and most recently by defending the rights of immigrants from illegal deportations.
I am proud that New York has been and today remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world. That is who we are as a state.
Sadly, the federal government seems to have forgotten who we are as a nation. Maybe what they need is a visit to Lady Liberty, where Emma Lazarus’ poem is engraved on the pedestal on which she stands, underpinning our core values of liberty and justice: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This is not just an expression of charity; it’s a plea to people around the world to help us meet the needs of the country and our state.
That’s why in New York we are reaffirming our commitment to protecting immigrants’ rights. And that’s why each new effort by the federal government to ban our immigrant sisters and brothers will be met by a redoubling of our commitment to support and protect them. Because, after all, we are them.
From Brooklyn to Utica, Washington Heights to Buffalo, we are a state of immigrants. Our buildings, roads and bridges could not have been built without their skill and strength. The success of our small businesses is a testament to their hard work. The arts, culinary and hospitality industries are infused with the spirit of ethnic diversity that results from our open doors.
The truth is that immigrants don’t hurt our economy, they fuel its growth.
From the beginning, my administration has prioritized support for immigrants to help them join our great mosaic of a society and contribute to our civic life.
The Office of New Americans, launched in 2013, has provided legal assistance to people on the path to citizenship — with more than 150,000 served. This past month we announced the second year of Naturalize NY, which eases the financial burden of the naturalization process by offering application vouchers to thousands of hard-working immigrants.
Equally essential, the Worker Exploitation Task Force has been hard at work making sure undocumented workers are treated fairly and paid adequately. As attorney general, I saw these injustices first-hand. That’s why as governor I’ve put 700 investigators on the job of stopping the secret, shadow economy of exploited labor. In the first three months of 2017, $10 million in recovered wages was returned to 15,489 victims of wage theft.
And this year we announced our first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project, making good on our promise to protect immigrants here in New York. More than $10 million in public and private investments are providing services to meet the surging legal needs of the state’s immigrants.
We are proud to continue our work with the Daily News and City University of New York, helping to provide vital information through Citizenship Now! to those seeking citizenship.
When you attack immigrants, you attack the very premise of this nation. Here in the glow of Lady Liberty’s torch, we will continue to lead the way forward, and immigrants will remain a vital part of the fabric of this state. We will show Washington, and the world, that the American Dream lives on for all those who seek a better life. Ever upward. Excelsior.
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