Governor Cuomo: “If there is a move to deport immigrants, I say then start with me. I am a son of immigrants.”
Announcement Made During Governor Cuomo's Address at Abyssinian Baptist Church
New State Police Unit Will Focus on Investigating Reported Hate Crimes
Legislation Will Extend Human Rights Law Protections to All Public School Students Statewide
New Public/Private Legal Defense Fund Will Ensure All Immigrants Have Access to Representation
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced several actions to protect civil rights and combat hate crimes in New York, including the creation of a State Police unit to investigate reports of hate crimes, an expansion of the state’s human rights law to protect all students, and the establishment of a new emergency legal defense fund for immigrants. Governor Cuomo laid out this three-part action plan while speaking to the congregation at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City about the post-election climate and the recent uptick in reports of discrimination, bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence throughout the state. More information is available here.
VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Thank you, thank you very much. It is an honor to be here this morning. I would have made a couple of comments on the Reverend’s introduction, but I don’t want any trouble with the Reverend, especially here, especially now. I don’t remember anyone re-summoning him to Washington. I don’t think anyone summons Reverend Butts anywhere. I think he has one boss and he’s not in this place and he'll meet him sometime in the future.
Reverend Butts is a tremendous asset for this state. You know his great contribution as a pastor. You know he is also the President of SUNY Westbury. He is a community activist, a community developer but I think he has even more to offer this state and this community.
It’s my honor to be here at the Great Abyssinian Baptist Church and to be joined by some distinguished guests. We have the great Congressman – the Lion of Lennox Avenue, Charles Rangel. We have the Lioness for justice – Councilwoman Inez Dickens is here with us. We have Alma Rangel who has been such a great citizen and great supporter for so many years. And we have Mrs. Portia Patterson who is the wife of a distinguished – what a distinguished public servant and citizen, Basil Paterson, and she is the mother of Governor David Paterson, who made history. Governor David Paterson is a good friend of mine and we are colleagues, and when our mothers get together, which we try to avoid, they talk about how difficult it is to keep your son in line once they become Governor.
It is my honor to be here today. I come here today with a heavy heart. The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on Election Day, in many ways it has gotten worse, into a social crisis that now challenges our very identity as a state and as a nation and as a people.
It goes beyond politics: it questions our American character – who we are and what we believe.
The answers by some make me soul sick for the America that I know and I love.
Now I am not alone. There are many who are soul sick for their America. There are young, there are old who feel alienated, disrespected and confused by what they hear.
We can now begin to understand what the Old Testament meant, when it said, “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.”
We are in a whirlwind of hate and division all across this country. Black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania found messages on their phones including images of lynchings and racial slurs. The day after the election someone painted racist messages on walls in Durham, North Carolina, saying: “Black lives don’t matter, and neither do your votes.”
During the week after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that there were 437 incidents of intimidation targeting blacks and people of color, as well as Muslims, immigrants, women and members of the LGBT community.
I wish I could say that our beautiful state of New York was immune from this poison but it’s not. Fliers promoting the KKK were found on parked cars in Patchogue, Long Island. A swastika was discovered on the B Train in Manhattan.
In Wellsville, outside of Buffalo, someone painted a swastika surrounded by the words "Make America White Again."
The fact is this – if you sow fear, you reap hysteria. If you sow divisiveness, you reap anarchy and we are seeing that today. We have seen this act before. The race massacre in Tulsa in 1921. The Palmer Raids and mass deportation of immigrants in the Twenties. The internment of Japanese citizens during World War II. The Red Scare of the 1950s.
This election season vented and fostered people’s anger and no doubt that the anger is real and it comes with good cause. From an economy that works for the few at the expense of the many. For 30 years we have been watching income inequality get worse and worse and worse and a middle class that is shrinking into poverty. There has been technological change that has eliminated millions of jobs and destroyed lives, families and entire communities. You go to upstate New York and you see towns that had a factory and that factory moved away and that town has been left without an economy since then.
Compounding all of this, is the feeling that the government. The last refuge of individual protection – the government –is now responsive to powerful interests that make large donations – that our government is now their government, and that we are not one of them.
This fear and this anger – misdirected – seeks an enemy– it seeks a target and that target has become people who we see as different than ourselves – people who look different, who have a different skin color, a different religion, a different sexuality and they have become a target for this anger
But demonizing our differences injects a social poison into the fabric of this country. Especially this country, because this is a nation built on differences. This country is not founded on one race, or once religion, or one custom. This nation is founded on one ideal, one compact, and that compact has been agreed to by many races and many cultures. The demonization of differences erodes our democracy at its core and attacks the foundation of this nation.
New York State, in many ways, embodies the American ideal. We are the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. New York is the welcome mat to the world. They step off here first. The Statue of Liberty stands in our harbor and New Yorkers hold the torch, and today, that torch must be held higher and that torch must shine brighter than ever before.
New York has a special responsibility. We have always been the progressive capital of this country. We have always been the social conscience and it is time that we act that way. We know what it is to stand up and remind this country what it means to be an American. That our core American belief is that we are one nation, under God, indivisible, where there is liberty and justice for all.
That what makes this country special on the globe is that we afford religious freedom to all individuals and we discriminate against none. The nation's motto is "E pluribus unum" – out of many, one. That is the American rule, period. And therefore if you love this county and if you are an American, then you must act like one and these acts of division are the exact opposite of what America stands for.
The divisiveness must stop and New Yorkers will not be bystanders to the injustice. That is not the New York way. We will fight sexism and racism and bigotry wherever we see it.
We will stand up for the rights of immigrants because we believe our diversity is a strength, not a weakness.
If there is a move to deport immigrants, I say then start with me. I am a son of immigrants. Son of Mario Cuomo, who is the son of Andrea Cuomo, a poor, Italian immigrant who came to this country without a job, without money, without resources and he was here only for the promise of America.
And if we’re going to question immigrants and if we deport immigrants then who is safe and who will be left? Because we are all immigrants. If we deport immigrants then the only ones left will be the Iroquois and the Cherokee and the Sioux and the Apache. Otherwise remember, we are all visitors to this great land.
New York’s message is a message of tolerance and brotherhood and unity. It is not a political message. It is not a Democratic message or a Republican message. It is not liberal or conservative; it is the Golden Rule that is the bedrock for faith for people around the world. Matthew in Ch. 22:36-40 tells us, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments. In the Old Testament it was Leviticus who said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
This belief in loving thy neighbor, the Golden Rule, is repeated throughout the Koran by the prophet Muhammad, who said, “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."
Long before the East and West met, Confucius wrote in 500 B.C., “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
Even the Sanskrit traditions of ancient India taught us, “Treat others as you would treat yourself.”
It is a timeless truth and these are the words that we need to take to heart at these dark times. These are the words that must guide us because they will heal us and they will bring us together. But at the same time, it is not a time for words alone; it is also a time for action. And the action will start here in New York.
Because as Martin Luther King said in his I Have a Dream speech, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off."
We have to act and we have to act now. These good words, this golden rule, these instructions are not just mandate of unity and brotherhood in the Bible. To violate them is not just a sin. To violate them and to commit a hate crime violates the law of the land and New York State will now allow the law to be violated.
Today I am directing the State Police and the State Division of Human Rights to put together a special team of trained professionals that will investigate these hate crime incidents all across the state, the major ones, the minor ones, the infractions. And we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law the perpetrators of any of this ugliness and divisiveness because it’s not happening in this state.
The laws of New York must protect every citizen and every child. And that’s why this January I will propose to the Legislature to expand the Human Rights Law to specifically protect every child in every school, both public and private.
We will make sure every young person knows the law of the land, and I will be sending a letter to every college student explaining their rights and responsibilities as citizens of New York. Their protections and their obligations and what they need to do to follow the law.
New York will also ensure that every person has legal protections, whether they can afford it or not. We will be putting together a public-private legal defense fund to provide immigrants who can’t afford their own defense, the legal assistance they need because in New York, we believe in justice for all.
At the same time, New York will be working to address the underlying fear that is starting this in the first place because we must address this pervasive economic insecurity. We have to provide good jobs that provide a decent wage and have a promise of economic mobility so people don’t feel they are stuck in place and that they have no future. We have to train displaced workers. We have to say to the people who feel they are not getting their fair piece of the American pie, the answer is not to fight your neighbor for their piece of the pie – not to fight for the scraps left by the rich – the answer is to grow the American pie for all and that’s what we have always done and that’s what has made this country the greatest on the earth.
New York still knows what America is supposed to be. And we must shout it from the mountaintops. We must provide guidance to this nation
We must stand up and say, "You spread fear and we will spread love."
We will stand up and say, "You try pull us apart and we will stand stronger one with the other."
We will stand up and say, "Yes we are black, we are white, we are brown – but we are one in people and in spirit."
"Yes we are Christians and Muslims and Jews – but we are one as a community."
"Yes we are gay and straight – but we are one."
“Yes we are new immigrants and we are old immigrants, but we are one.”
“Yes we are individuals but we also believe that we are one community. And that is the New York way. We believe that there is a cord that connects you to you to you to you and that cord may be invisible but it is there. And it weaves a fabric and we call that fabric community and we believe in a community we invest in each other because when one of us is raised, we are all raised, and when one of us is lowered, we are all lowered. We have a shared destiny.”
We are here to share benefits and burdens. We are here to love one another and grow with one another and invest in one another because every child’s future is our child’s future. That is the New York way that made this state the greatest state in the country. We brought 18 million people from around the globe. Brought different races, different religions, different cultures and we said we will operate as a family and we will grow as a family. We don’t care the color of your skin or how much money you have in your pocket. If you accept the American idea the New York way, we will work with you and we will grow with you. That is the American Dream that built this nation and the division is anathema to that dream. The separation is a poison and it has to stop and it has to stop now and New York is going to lead the way in stopping the anger and show the way for positive growth. New York is going to say, “We remember what made this nation the greatest nation on this earth. We remember the compact that made this country grow. We are going to keep that dream alive and we are going to fight to make it a reality for every American.”