Tens of thousands took to the streets of New York City on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the third annual Women’s March organized by the Women’s March Alliance, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave and reproductive freedom, to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social, political, environmental and economic justice. (See also With Cry of ‘Your Voice Your Power,’ Alliance Mounts 3rd Annual Women’s March on NYC Jan. 19)
The marchers got particularly animated outside of
Trump Tower Hotel on Central Park West, chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,”
extending a finger, and waving placards calling for “Indict, Impeach, Imprison.”
The protesters use their bodies as message boards. Here are highlights:
Women’s March Alliance, the official organizer of the March on NYC since 2017, will stage its third annual march on Saturday, January 19. Line up begins at 10 a.m. with the march kicking off at 11 a.m. on 61st Street and Central Park West (main entrance on 72nd and Columbus). The march, which is expected to draw 100,000 participants, will run along Central Park West south around Columbus Circle, east on 59th Street then south on 6th Avenue.
The theme for this year’s Woman’s March, taking place in New York City on Saturday Jan 19, could well be “I am woman. Hear me roar,” especially after the dramatic successes culminating in the 2018 elections that saw a record number of women running for office and elected – women now one-fourth of Congress, and there are four more women governors.
And in New York, the
successful takeover of the Senate gives new hope for a progressive agenda,
topped with the Women’s Reproductive Health Act.
But the Women’s March
Alliance organizers worry that sheer exhaustion and complacency might rightly
set in after all that happened to produce the success of 2018, but that there still so much work to be
done, not the least is: Now you have heard our roar, act.
“We want to make sure we don’t
stop fighting. We are half way there. We can’t stop now. We have to move
forward,” said Katherine Siemionko, founder and president of Women’s March
Alliance. “The theme for the march
is ‘Your Voice Your Power.’ We have seen what happened in 2018 Elections. New York cannot stand back. New
York leads nation in progress.” (The actual hashtag for the march is #YourVoiceYourPower)
Indeed, that there is still
so much work to be done is reflected in the cavalier attitude Trump and
Republicans have to shutting down government, with no clue and no care of the
ramifications on women and families that go beyond withholding pay to 800,000
federal workers as well as contractors,from food safety to food stamps, from
mortgages to small business loans, from housing vouchers to veterans benefits. They
even stood by while the Violence Against Women Act expired.
And then there is the
unbelievable cruelty being inflicted on millions of families across the nation
who may have an undocumented immigrant among them but American citizen spouse
or children, or the four million Dreamers whose lives are in limbo. Think of
the desperate migrants as the Trump Administration tries to overturn domestic
violence and gang violence as a basis for asylum; the forced separation of
families; the families of tens of thousands of migrants and refugees here for
decades under Temporary Protected Status who have been told they will be
deported. Think of the families ripped apart. That’s a woman’s issue, too.
Now Trump is threatening
to declare a national emergency in order to take funds allocated for rebuilding
communities devastated by climate disasters in Puerto Rico afflicted by Maria,
in California after the wildfires, in Florida and South Carolina after Michael.
And then there is the humanitarian crisis created by Trump’s anti-immigrant
policy that has led to two children dying while in US custody, and hundreds of
children rendered orphans, thousands more traumatized by their condition.
But this is New York
State, and thankfully, there is finally full control by Democrats. On January
22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the State Legislature is
expected to pass the Reproductive Health Act, strengthening abortion access by
codifying the principles of Roe v. Wade in state law, after 12
years of trying but failing. But this action cannot be taken for granted. There
is still need to push the politicians to act –and not take such landmark for
This is no time to be
complacent – the regressive forces are not complacent, they are seizing the opportunity of a hard-religious right
majority on the Supreme Court, to push through personhood amendments that
essentially give more rights to a fetus than the mother carrying it. Women have
actually been prosecuted for miscarrying and such laws could be applied to
punish women for behaviors that are deemed harmful to a fetus. Essentially,
women would become slaves of the state, not considered entitled to the same
right of self-determination as a man. Big Brother doesn’t begin to describe
So this year’s march has
its own urgency: to cement and recommit, to make sure that the electeds carry
out what could be called a woman’s agenda but encompasses so much because women’s
issues are so broad.
Here’s a partial list:
gun violence prevention, universal health care, universal pre-K, affordable
college, climate action and environmental justice, immigration reform, pay
equity, parental leave, criminal justice reform… Way too many to fit into a
soundbite, a poster or a tweet.
But if you still need a
motivation, consider this: the 2020 presidential election is already underway,
and the way women candidates for office are once again being evaluated
according to a different standard (“likeability,” “shrill”).
The danger of
complacency needs to be recalled: that’s what happened in 2016, when too many believed
that Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman to head a major party ticket
meant that America had entered a post-feminist era, just as Obama’s election
was supposedly a post-racist era. Okay to stay home out of some manufactured
outrage, just because you could; okay to throw a vote away on an independent
candidate, because of course the most qualified candidate, who stood for gender
rights, civil rights, criminal justice, environmental justice, economic
justice, would win. We saw how that went.
The march, which will
include opportunities to register to vote (and local elections in 2019 are
important), is a call to action to get things done while we have the
“honeymoon” of the new electeds and the fear of God in the incumbents – because
they think they can do anything they want and ignore the voices of 2018 because
the electorate won’t remember in 2020.
It is important, as
well, to keep the networks and the alliances intact, for the affirmation and
validation that the marchers give to one another. And because 2020 is right
around the corner.
Indeed, the greatest
threat to the Women’s movement is complacency (and fatigue) after the hard-won
victories of 2018.
“We must be fearful that
people have become comfortable, because that’s what happened in 2016 – we were
the popular vote, we still are the popular vote, we don’t want to get
comfortable and let the crazy seem like the status quo & normal,” said
Freedom Shannon, a member of the board of WMA which describes itself as “a nonprofit alliance of human rights
supporters who seek to close the social, political and economic gender divide.”
“We are changing what it
means to be a woman in our society. We have marched to being one in five in Congress,
but we need to come out January 19 to honor those who have come before us, to
show those in countries that cannot assemble, what democracy looks like, and
pave the way for future generations,” Shannon said. “On January 19, we will unify our voices so we amplify enough to be
heard by the people in power and soften their hearts so they can act without
The organizers at a
press conference introducing the event stressed that WMA is completely separate
from Womens March Inc. which organized the Washington March in 2017 and is
holding a rally in New York City also on January 19. That organization raised
controversy of being anti-Semitic when leaders expressed support for Louis
Siemionko noted “We
are a local grassroots team of volunteers hosting this event for the third year
in a row, and we do not have nor have we ever had an association with Women’s
March, Inc. or its founders.”
She continued, “Our mission is to include and advance women regardless of
faith, sexual identity and preference, race, cultural and religious background
or political affiliation.”
Siemionko was firm on
insisting that WMA is inclusive, and that like all the other sister marches
that took place in 2017 and 2018 in cities across the nation, all grew
organically, as local grassroots organizations reflecting their communities.
She stressed how WMA
went out of its way to accommodate the Jewish community, including organizing
the march so it would start within walking distance of a large segment of the community
on the Upper West Side. “We wanted to honor those Jews who want to honor Sabbath without taking public
transportation, but can march to support women’s rights.” In addition,
Siemionko will be participating in a panel on January 17 at the Stephen Wise
“The confusion happened
when Womens March Inc, the official march of DC, decided to break ground here
in NYC. Unfortunately that happened at time when irresponsible wording was used
to insult different communities.
“One of the reasons we
became part of WMA since its inception is that anti-Semitism, racial discrimination,
LGBT discrimination had no place here, especially in New York City, the most
diverse place in the nation, in the world,” said Debra Dixon Anderson, director
of operations of the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a WMA board
member, “and we appreciate all different walks of life.”
WMA is the only
organization that has a permit from New York City for a march on January 19.
Enter at 72nd
Street to Central Park West, or enter from Central Park. There will be a
15-minute kickoff at 11 am (not a rally), then the march will get underway at
11:15, go south past Columbus Circle, east on 59, then south to 44 Street.
Check the site for details.
There will be a female Indian chief to bless the march, female drum bands, brass bands, acrobats, DJs, and activists.
In conjunction with
the event, people will have a chance to see “Eyes of the World,” a giant, collaborative mosaic, 5 ft tall and
18 feet wide, produced by thousands of contributors since the first Women’s
March on New York City in 2017. that is on view at the Newburger Gallery in the
lobby of SUNY Optometry (33 West 42nd Street), across from Bryant
Park, noon to 9 pm.
“’Eyes of the World’ is
a tangible and permanent reminder to the United States government that our eyes
are constantly watching to ensure all policies embody human rights, advance
civil rights, and promote the highest degree of equality,” write Joanne and
Bruce Hunter, artists and creators of public art.
The message of the 2019 Women’s March should be: We won. Now act.
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
Some 22,000 New Yorkers joined a protest march and rally against the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating children from parents and incarcerating families seeking asylum. The march that started at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, continued across the Brooklyn Bridge, and finished with a rally in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.
Here are highlights:
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union: “It’s bad enough those who control government would turn their backs on those fleeing violence, turn out people living here for decades, but that the country I love so much could commit such atrocities against children, all in the service of a warped agenda. We won a court order to force the government to reunite families in 30 days. It was an important victory but we know this regime won’t comply unless we force them to…. Take back our country. Fight back in courts, on the streets and damn it, at the ballot box.”
Carola Bracco, Executive Director, Neighbors Link: “Today is not just about immigrant rights, it is about human rights. This is not who we are as a country. This is not a country I recognize. I can’t imagine anything more devastating than having a child forcibly taken, then having to search. From this chaos, strong leaders are emerging, committed to changing course. We are here to fight for liberty, to live with dignity. Together we will change the trajectory of this country.”
Jennifer Jones Austin, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies: “Freedom is about saying no to a lie, vetoeing an untruth. Say no to the lies of this administration; veto the untruth of saying separating children is for our own good.
Estela Vasquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU: “Mobilize, march, protest until we stop this stupid policy of zero tolerance. Scorch Agent Orange in the white House. We are not fooled by a phony executive order. Separating children, incarcerating children is no different from what the Nazis in Germany did in the 1930s, what we did to Japanese in World War II. Zero tolerance for poverty, for police brutality, for inhumanity.”
Hector Figuerola, SEIU: These migrants are running away from the conditions the US created in the first place. 66% of our union are foreign born. “The labor movement has to stand against these attacks on immigrant families. They are not ‘them’. They are us. Fight for children not to be jailed, but free. Stand for families everywhere. This doesn’t end today. For families who suffer loss of a child to police brutality or street violence. Fight for all families. Start with immigrants being dehumanized by this administration. Imagine what it will be if we were to connect the struggle of all the resistence against Trump – labor, women’s movement, those seeking freedom for everyone. Our fight is the fight of people. Let’s fight and let’s win.
Padma Lakshmi, Author and Television Host: I am an immigrant, a daughter of an immigrant single mother. This is an issue of common decency and humanity, defining who we want to be as a nation. This country was built on labor and sweat of immigrants. That’s what makes America great. Trump is sowing generations of hatred.”
Omolara Uwemedimo, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, a daughter of Nigerian immigrants and a mother of two, described the physical and mental toll that may last a lifetime on children being subjected to the trauma of being forcibly separated and incarcerated. There is also the toxic stress on those living in fear of a government taking undocumented parents away from a family. “Family detention is not a solution, it is child abuse and I am a mandated reporter. I am reporting the Trump Administration for abuse of black and brown children.”
Flor Reyes, DACA Recipient, with her brother, Elvis, described the constant terror of a family of “mixed status,” where parents could be deported while children are DACA recipients or American citizens must fend for themselves.
Perla Lopez, Youth member, Make the Road New York, recalled her flight with her mother, fleeing with five children and her detention. “It was almost 10 years ago but is still traumatic.”
Comedian and actor Amy Schumer: “We were so excited election night when we thought Hillary would be president. Then Hell opened up.”
Rama Issa, Executive Director, Arab American Association of NY, was one of 633 women arrested in Washington DC demanding the government abolish ICE.
Shannon Stagman, Leader, Empire State Indivisible: “Pick up the phone and call your representatives every day. Donating is good, but also knock on doors. Voting is good, but also help others vote.”
Murad Awawdeh, VP of Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition, provided a list of action items: Fight. Stay informed (text NYIC 864237 for alerts); Call legislators. Support organizations (donate, volunteer). And “vote for those who share our values.”
Other speakers included:
Rev. Chloe Breyer, Interfaith Center of NY
Alison Hirsh, Vice President and Political Director, SEIU 32BJ
Ravi Ragbir, Leader, New Sanctuary Coalition
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network
Kerry Washington, Actor, Producer and Activist
Imam Suhaib Webb, Resident Scholar, Islamic Center NYU
Among the electeds participating in the march: U.S. House Representatives Yvette Clarke, Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velázquez, Jerrold Nadler, and Adriano Espaillat, as well as numerous state and local representatives.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered at Foley Square in front of the federal courthouse and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Trump Administration’s intolerable Zero Tolerance immigration policy that has resulted in thousands of children being forcibly separated from parents making a claim for asylum from violence in Central America.
The Protect Families March and Rally was organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State including immigrant rights advocates, advocacy groups, unions, and allies demanding an end to the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies against immigrant families.
New York City Police Department estimated the crowd at 22,000, but there may have been many more than that. The “family-friendly” march was exactly that with scores of families with their small children taking a stand on behalf of other families.
It was one of 700 protests across America on June 30, a National Day of Action.
The Day of Action was the climax to Trump’s incrementally destructive immigration policy, starting with summarily ending DACA protections, then ending legal status for thousands of refugees who have been given shelter in the US for decades and built homes here, stepped up deportation raids that take parents away from children, many of whom are American citizens. Demanding $25 billion to build a wall that no one believes will do anything, and holding the federal budget hostage to that, is the least of it. Trump is also using first the DACA recipients and now the immigrant children as bargaining chips to restrict legal immigration, as well.
Instead of pursuing a constructive, humanitarian solution to immigration reform, Donald Trump purposefully undertakes the cruelest, most brutal and destructive power-play – because he can. Because he thinks this will fire up his base since they are getting wise that his tax “cut” is really a scam. And because he has dictator envy.
But while Trump moved with great urgency and speed to literally kidnap children from their parents in order to hold them for ransom to get his equally brutal and destructive immigration “reform” that would restrict even legal immigration (and $25 billion for a useless wall), his administration could care less about setting up the mechanisms to assure the children – moved hundreds and thousands of miles away – can be restored to their parents. As it is, there are parents who are being immediately deported without their children, some too young to know their own name or speak, who are lost in a system.
In fact, this plan – to use torture as a “deterrent” –under the guise of “Zero Tolerance” was hatched in the first few weeks after Trump’s inauguration, embraced by John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary. It is also on view with the way he has unleashed deportation raids, snatching those with American spouses and children, cancelled legal status of refugees who have lived in the US for decades.
It’s remarkable to contemplate (since the administration isn’t saying) how much money is being spent on this sadistic policy – one private prison operator has a contract for $500 million – and who in the Trump orbit is pocketing the millions and millions of tax dollars.
But let’s be reminded: the reason there are so many undocumented immigrants (11 million by some accounts) and so many thousands crossing “illegally” (though just 20% from the peak) is because the Republicans have effectively shut down legal immigration and refused to take up Comprehensive Immigration reform.
If this really were about controlling illegal immigration, the Trump administration would have spent those millions staffing ports of entry, setting up immigration courts, and creating detention centers that could accommodate families. They could release parents with an ankle bracelet (as they did under Obama) so they could be tracked; 99% of immigrants turn up to their court hearings.
Other presidents appropriately tried to deal with the problem at their source: the heinous violence that has prompted these parents to flee with only what they could carry, taking their children on the most perilous 2,000-mile journey – violence the US bred with the export of MS-13 from Los Angeles. That was one of the reasons for NAFTA – to improve the living standard in Mexico through trade – and it worked to a great extent (the refugees aren’t coming from Mexico, in fact, more Mexicans are leaving than are coming). Obama, faced with an unprecedented flood of refugees seeking asylum, thousands of unaccompanied teenagers among them, attempted to improve conditions in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (along with an information campaign to discourage people from coming). Indeed, the numbers of those being apprehended at the border fell sharply, from a peak of 1.6 million in 2001, to 300,000 in 2017 – hardly an invasion, or “infestation” in the White Nationalist language that Trump spews or a “crisis” except by Trump’s own concoction. Instead, Trump has said he would cut off aid to these countries, which would only exacerbate the desperation.
Trump has no such interest in actually solving a problem, certainly not improving the lives of others. And he thinks his Zero Tolerance policy plays well to his (deplorables) base, especially since they are catching on to the Republican tax scam that redistributed $1.5 trillion from working families into the pockets of the already obscenely rich and corporations (83% going to top 1%, a mere 4% of workers receiving a bonus or pay hike because of tax cuts).
So he needs to motivate his base somehow, and is literally handing them red meat.
His fear-mongering, which mimics the propaganda campaign used by Nazis, brands immigrants as “animals,” “infestation,” “aliens” “invaders” stealing jobs and harming the economy in order to dehumanize them. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than “native born,” and even a study by the Trump Administration found that instead of “costing” jobs, immigrants added $63 billion to the US economy over a 10-year period (the report was suppressed because of its finding, and leaked to the New York Times two months later). And aren’t we constantly told that unemployment is at record lows?
These asylum-seekers violating laws? Actually, not. It is Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen who are violating the Constitution and international law and should be prosecuted for human rights abuses. And this only adds to the ever growing list of Trump’s impeachable crimes: crimes against humanity.
Now he is insisting that these immigrants have no right to due-process to make their claim in front of an immigration judge. In fact, Trump, who first used the 800,000 DACA recipients as bargaining chips, now has upped the ante in using infants. Trump is using these children, who are suffering crippling trauma that can impact their entire lives, in order to get legislation that effectively shuts down even legal immigration. He has said so: he only wants “merit” based immigration (as in the Chinese who invest in his properties in order to purchase visas).
This is a man who embraces torture and proudly proclaimed he would kill family members to “discourage” would-be terrorists. His internment camps and the legal limbo invented status he has created are akin to Guantanamo Bay, where there too, due-process and American values of “innocent until proven guilty” have been violated, and where torture has made those cases unresolvable, his use of child abuse, kidnapping to extort their parents into agreeing to deportation and Democrats to accept unacceptable legislation akin to Abu Ghraib.
Be reminded that Obama did have a compromises comprehensive Immigration Bill that passed the Senate in 2013, 68-32, but John Boehner blocked from a vote in the House, causing Obama to institute DACA; and that Trump, himself, in that brief interlude that suggested sanity when it was only the 800,000 DACA recipients being held hostage, said he would accept any compromise out of “love” and “compassion” but then promptly betrayed every deal agreed to and torpedoed every bill proposed.
If Trump really wanted to solve the problem, he would add, not detract, from the impossibly overworked 330 immigration judges required to meet a quota of cases (basically tipping the scales against petitioners, compromising the fairness and integrity of a case) and never get to wind down the backlog of 720,000 cases, rather than ridicule the plea to hire 5,000 more judges because, as Trump tweeted, “they are corrupt.” (That might be true for his judicial appointees, starting with Neil Gorsuch.)
There may be pernicious strategy to Trump’s politics, but yet another example of the complete ineptitude and corruption in the implementation – like Puerto Rico, like the Trump Travel Ban – scandals, violations of law and the Constitution that would have toppled any other administration and triggered impeachment.
The Trump administration had no plan and actually no real care, and had no process for reuniting the children with their parents, who received a receipt for their property but not their child, even infants who cannot speak; what is more, there are reports of children being drugged and abused while in custody.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has said, “Family separation can cause irreparable harm to children’s health, disrupting their brain architecture and affecting short- and long-term health.” He is also inflicting torturous anxiety on parents. What is more, the administration has not developed a mechanism to insure the parents are reunited with their children, let alone contact them, who are often removed hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have already begun deporting parents without their children, or even knowing where the children are.
The very secrecy built around Trump’s internment system should spur Congressional oversight, but Republicans, who spent 4 years and 11 separate investigations into Benghazi, have no appetite and no interest, making their own political calculations.
Trump has slapped that claim of “national security” on this and every other heinous policy (Travel Ban, illegal tariffs) but his policy has made the country less safe – pulling resources from detaining actual drug-smugglers and criminals, further enraging and alienating allies, and making the US toothless in condemning human rights abuses anywhere in the world, turning the US into a rogue nation. Moreover, its treatment of migrating mothers and small children are likely to be a recruitment tool for terrorists, just as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were. It’s no coincidence the US pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
But making the country safe was never the issue, just as there was no real immigration “crisis,” and certainly no actual “invasion”. Trump sees “Zero Tolerance” as a winning political issue for those who fear more than anything, as Pat Buchanan warned, the loss of White Power and White Supremacy as America evolves into a minority-majority nation.
What do they fear from an “infestation?” That “these” people or their children, will someday vote, or at least be counted in a census determining representation in Congress (that so far has worked in the favor of the Southerners, much as the 3/5 rule for slaves gave White Supremacists outsized power in Congress).
But this extortionist style of “negotiation” has worked for Trump throughout his corrupt career and will only continue, especially if it works now. What’s next? Stepped up deportation raids? Strip nationalized Americans of their citizenship? Suspend due process? Purges and loyalty oaths for federal workers? Lock up journalists? Martial law? Cancel elections? Imprison political opponents? Extra-judicial killings? Expand the Travel (Muslim) Ban? Because he can, because nobody will stop him?
Trump, in a familiar pattern of accusing others of doing the offences he actually commits, said these desperate immigrants have been prompted by lawyers to use the password “fleeing violence” to gain the rights of asylum-seekers. But the five Supreme Court conservatives, including Neil Gorsuch sitting in the seat stolen for him by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave him the password which Trump will no doubt use liberally, to expand a travel ban, to deny asylum seekers due process, to commit the unconscionable crime of separating children from their parents: “national security.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York State intends to file a multi-agency lawsuit against the Trump Administration on the grounds that the federal government is violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents who have been separated at the border. We now know of more than 70 children who are staying in federal shelters in New York State and that number is expected to increase as other facilities are contacted. The Governor is directing the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services to commence legal action against the federal government’s “Separation of Families” policy. Following the callous and inhumane treatment of immigrant families at the border, New York is suing to protect the health and well-being of children being held at least 10 different facilities across the state including some on Long Island, and at others throughout the nation.
“The Trump Administration’s policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will not tolerate the Constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government. New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all.”
The Governor announced that New York plans to sue the federal government for:
Violating the Constitutional Rights of Children and Families
Parents are being separated from their children at the border as a result of the Trump Administration’s new “zero tolerance” prosecution of the minor federal offense of improper entry into the country. In prior administrations, families who appeared with children at the border would be processed together and released with a date to appear in court. Now, parents, many of whom are seeking to protect their children and families from gang violence, are being systematically detained, separated from their children, and, in some cases, deported with no meaningful opportunity to participate in making decisions concerning the care and custody of their children. Yet these parents are still afforded rights under the United States Constitution to familial integrity and to decide to exercise their parental rights in New York State.
Violation of the Terms of the Flores Settlement
The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and prioritizes the principle of family unity. It requires that juvenile immigrant detainees be released from custody without unnecessary delay, or when no appropriate placement is available, be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs. The Flores Settlement explicitly requires family reunification with a clear preference for custody by a parent, which supports New York’s call for ending the “zero tolerance” policy.
Callous Policies Based on the Outrageous Government Conduct Doctrine
The Supreme Court has asserted that “it may someday be presented with a situation in which the conduct of law enforcement agents is so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.” Clearly that day has come. New York State will challenge the federal government’s zero-tolerance policy which leads to the unnecessary and inhumane separation of families and detention of childrenand which serves no legitimate national security or public safety purpose.
Governor Cuomo issued an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence condemning the “zero-tolerance” policy and urging the federal government to end the mistreatment of immigrant families at the border.
The Governor’s call for legal action builds on the launch of new initiatives and increased services and support for New Americans across New York. In January, the Governor announced actions to protect thousands of immigrants from President Trump’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, including directing the Department of State to increase resources available to communities across New York.
On June 8, the Governor issued a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General John Kelly calling for an investigation into the conduct of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and on Sunday, June 17, the Governor again called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of immigrant families at the border. On Monday, June 18 the Governor declared that New York State will not deploy National Guard to the border and will not support the federal government’s inhumane treatment of immigrant families.
Liberty Defense Project
This latest call for action builds on the comprehensive efforts of this administration to protect the rights of immigrants, including the Liberty Defense Project, created by Governor Cuomo in 2017. The LDP was established in response to hostile federal policies and is the nation’s first state-led project to assist immigrants – regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The Liberty Defense Project provides essential legal services on deportation defense, direct representation, consultations, application assistance, and more. The public-private partnership is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities, and bar associations across the state.
Since July 2017, the Liberty Defense Project has provided more than 10,000 free and confidential services to individuals needing legal assistance through its network of 47 community-based groups.
Application Deadline Extended for NaturalizeNY Initiative
Part of the Governor’s efforts to help immigrants and minority populations fully participate in New York’s civic and economic life, NaturalizeNY assists low-income immigrants in gaining U.S. citizenship. The nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office, NaturalizeNY is administered and supported by Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans in partnership with Robin Hood, New York Community Trust, Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, as well as faculty from SUNY Albany and George Mason University.
Eligible immigrants may register and enter a lottery for a voucher to cover the $725 naturalization application fee. Applicants may apply online at NaturalizeNY.org, via the New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636 or by visiting an ONA Opportunity Center. The registration period began May 1 and has been extended from its original June 15 end date to July 3, 2018.
Since Governor Cuomo established the Office of New Americans in 2013, more than 200,000 New Americans have received help navigating the naturalization process, starting and growing their own businesses, learning English, and becoming part of New York’s diverse cultural fabric. Of these:
19,543 were Naturalization and DACA applications and referrals;
34,938 participated in ESOL classes throughout the state;
4,986 partook in entrepreneurship classes across New York;
500 graduated with at least 20 hours of English language coursework via Cell-Ed, a phone-based English learning system for individuals who have difficulty reaching an actual classroom; and
1,540 are actively engaged in Cell-Ed throughout the state.
In addition to providing free, direct assistance to individuals, the Office for New Americans has conducted more than 6,000 seminars and meetings to educate New Yorkers on how to apply for a passport, how to apply for college, what to do if/when immigration officers come to their homes, and what avenues are available for victims of domestic violence.
“It is outrageous government conduct and there is an outrageous government conduct doctrine,” Governor Cuomo told reporters in a press call announcing the plan to sue the Trump Administration. “The Supreme Court has expressed openness to the idea that, iit may someday be presented with a situation in which the conduct of law enforcement agents is so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.’
“And clearly that day has come. We’ve had a number of experiences with ICE in this state where I believe they have been turned into a political police apparatus. We had a situation in Rome, New York on April  where they trampled an immigrant’s rights without a warrant. Went onto a farm, grabbed a worker, left. Unidentified. Never showed the farmer a piece of paper. They just trampled the immigrant’s rights as they trampled the farmer’s field. We’re involved in a situation now that happened on June  where they detained Pablo Villavicencio, who was a pizza delivery person delivering pizza in Brooklyn, married, two children, in New York, and he has been detained. They moved to deport him immediately. We intervened through what we call our Liberty Defense Project. We provided counsel and we put that off, but it’s just another example of the overzealous activity of ICE in pursuing the President’s political mandate. The separation between police powers and political wishes is sacrosanct in this country, and I think that’s being violated.
“You should also know that the State regulates the facilities that the federal government is using and the State offered health services and mental health services to these children. Obviously it’s traumatic for a child to be separated from their parents and the State has been informed that the federal government has essentially gagged the facilities and that if we want to provide any services to the children, we’d have to go through the federal government and it’s a protracted process that would take weeks.
“Why the federal government would want to be in a position to stop a state from offering mental health services, support services, for young children suffering trauma just adds further insult to further injury.
“We’re going to sue through a multi-agency coalition, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, what we call OTDA, the Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services on the grounds that I mentioned earlier. So politics aside, philosophy aside, children have legal rights. Parents have legal rights. That’s established firmly in the federal and state constitutions and in case law. They have fundamental rights. They apply whether they’re documented, undocumented, short, tall, Mexican, seeking asylum, or not seeking asylum. Those fundamental rights apply and we believe they’ve been violated.”
Normally rote proclamations take on a sardonic, sarcastic, ironic tone when signed by Donald J. Trump.
It may surprise people that May 1 (in many places called May Day) is proclaimed Law Day – particularly ironic as Trump, insisting he doesn’t have to answer to the investigation into possible Russian collusion with his campaign and obstruction of justice while in office, is nothing but undermining the Rule of Law and the concept that “No Man is Above the Law.” He has said as much, in such statements echoing Nixon’s “When the President does it, well, that means it’s not illegal”. Or in his echo of Louis XIV’s “L’etat s’est moi” – when he decried the “raid” on his lawyer Michael Cohen as an attack on the nation (what does he make of sending his goons to raid his Dr. Bornstein’s office without any kind of warrant and steal his medical records over his pique at being outed for using a hair-growth prescription? That press shill Sarah Huckabee Sanders said was “routine” when someone becomes president? Does anyone recall any other president raiding their doctor’s office to seize records? ).
Here’s what Trump signed (and clearly did not write and likely never read):
On Law Day, we celebrate our Nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law. This heritage is embodied most powerfully in our Constitution, the longest surviving document of its kind. The Constitution established a unique structure of government that has ensured to our country the blessings of liberty through law for nearly 229 years.
The Framers of our Constitution created a government with distinct and independent branches — the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial — because they recognized the risks of concentrating power in one authority. As James Madison wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” By separating the powers of government into three co-equal branches and giving each branch certain powers to check the others, the Constitution provides a framework in which the rule of law has flourished.
The importance of the rule of law can be seen throughout our Nation’s history.
It is not really a coincidence that May 1 (May Day, a celebration of Workers rights around the world, including in the US of A where May Day began), is also designated as Loyalty Day – a McCarthy-era direct assault on Communism (but apparently, not on Russia, which is no longer communist but fascist and Trump’s best bud).
Loyalty Day, just like National Prayer Day, is actually a violation of what this nation holds dear. In America, we are not supposed to be required to pledge allegiance, certainly not to swear “under God”. No doubt, Trump signed the proclamation, thinking that Loyalty Day meant to swear loyalty to himself, the Dear Leader. I have no doubt he actually read the proclamation:
On Loyalty Day, we reflect with humility and gratitude upon the freedoms we hold dear, and we reaffirm our allegiance to our Nation and its founding principles. We cherish our system of self-government, whereby each American citizen is free to exercise their God-given and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We honor and defend our Constitution, which constrains the power of government and allows us freely to exercise these rights. We also recognize the great responsibility that accompanies a free people and vow to preserve our hard-won liberty. For we know, as President Ronald Reagan once said, that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
This Loyalty Day, we remember and honor the thousands of Americans who have laid down their lives to protect and defend our Nation’s beautiful flag.
May is also when this government has decided to hold the National Prayer Breakfast – another action (along with “In God We Trust” as a motto on money) to institutionalize the violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.
Instead, Trump went a step beyond what even George W. Bush did in setting up the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, to sign his own Faith-Based Initiative.
The nexus of Capitalism and Christian Zealotry came during the McCarthy era, when the notion of Christian charity was replaced by the Puritan concept that you got what you deserved, so rich people were rich because they deserved it; poor people were impoverished because they deserved it. Such zealotry was used to justify slavery as well as prohibiting abortion to rape victims.
Much of today’s malevolent political climate can be traced to the McCarthy era, including Trump’s own mentor, Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s own counsel, and taught Donnie everything he knows about attacking in order to evade legal or moral accountability.
And of course, May features Mothers Day… Trump’s proclamation for May 13, 2018 begins this way:
Mother’s Day is a very special occasion and opportunity to express our endless gratitude to the women who give their unyielding love and devotion to their families, and their unending sacrifices to guide, protect, and nurture the success of their children. Our country has long appreciated and benefited from the contributions women have made to empowering and inspiring not only those under their roofs, but those in our schools, communities, governments, and businesses…
Today, and every day, let us express our utmost respect, admiration, and appreciation for our mothers who have given us the sacred gifts of life and unconditional love. In all that they do, mothers influence their families, their communities, our Nation, and our world. Whether we became their children through birth, adoption, or foster care, we know the unmatched power of the love, dedication, devotion, and wisdom of our mothers.
Certainly, Trump cherishes motherhood so much, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, among others, while Melania was still nursing 4-month old Barron.
This is the man who directs his administration to terrorize undocumented mothers, that they will be forced to abandon their American-citizen children, who pulls away parents who are the major breadwinners for their families, who have lived in the United States for decades and are contributing to their communities.
The precious sentiment of his Mothers Day proclamation is belied by the cruelty the Trump Administration has shown to refugees claiming asylum, purposefully separating children, even infants, from their parents in order to discourage people fleeing violence from attempting to find refuge in the United States.
“There is no law enforcement or other legitimate basis for separating children from their parents at the border,” Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted. “It is simply cruel. Imagine the terror of a young child in a strange land, pried away from his or her parents. Whatever happened to compassion or family values?”
“Arresting and ripping apart parents and children is a new low in demagoguery. It’s another reminder of President Trump’s failure to craft a genuine set of border laws and his inhumane outlook,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote.
“It’s a chilling but predictable new low for an administration that reacts blindly and harshly to any mention of immigrants. Families may be fleeing persecution, seeking a better life or trying to find relatives already in the U.S.”
It doesn’t stop there. The Republicans, which just passed a tax scam that shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from working people to the richest and adds that much to the national debt,so Trump is clawing back $7 billion in spending from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and $252 million from a fund that earmarked to combat the Ebola outbreak.
Trump also is advocating for a Republican-pushed Farm Bill which cuts SNAP – the food stamp program that helps 40 million people, the majority who are children, seniors and disabled – by $20 billion, literally taking food from babes’ mouths. Attaching new work requirements to qualify for the very benefits that are necessary because wages have not kept pace, despite record corporate profits and now $1.5 trillion in tax windfall for the richest.
He also sheds crocodile tears for how devastating the opioid crisis has been. But what has Trump actually done to address the opioid crisis? And for that matter, what has he or the Republican majority done to solve the life/death problem of access to affordable health care, instead, making impossible demands for the very people most desperate for health care to access Medicaid.
Indeed, he chose Mother’s Day to proclaim the start of National Women’s Health Week the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who appears to care less that the US is facing a maternal mortality crisis, that up to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year with Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications, not to mention that a woman who suffers a miscarriage may well be jailed for infanticide. (See: Virginia Woman Given a Jail Sentence for “Concealing a Dead Body” After Her Stillbirth)
This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.
One of the most LOL ironic among the May proclamations was the one Trump issued as a nod to his wife, Melania, who after a year and a half as First Lady, finally declared her “agenda” branded as “Be Best” (which turns out to be copied from an Obama handbook on social media and bullying), declaring May 7, “Be Best Day”.
Trump’s remarks at this heralded event in which he followed up by signing a proclamation of “Be Best Day” did not speak at all to the essence of anti-bullying. No, not at all. It was all praise for Melania.
America is truly blessed to have a First Lady who is so devoted to our country and to our children.
On Be Best Day, we encourage and promote the well-being of children everywhere. In an increasingly complex and inter‑connected world, nothing is more important than raising the next generation of Americans to be healthy, happy, productive, and morally responsible adults. This begins with educating our children about the many critical issues they must confront in our modern world that affect their ability to lead balanced and fulfilled lives.
Our Nation’s children deserve certain knowledge that they are safe to grow, learn, and make mistakes. Adults must provide them with the tools they need to make positive contributions in their schools, with their friends, and in their communities.
It will surprise people that May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, and here we can recall Trump’s varied and many dogwhistles to bigotry and hate and his tacit encouragement of White Supremacists.
Jewish Americans have helped guide the moral character of our Nation… The contributions of the Jewish people to American society are innumerable, strengthening our Nation and making it more prosperous.
Lumping other minorities together in the same month’s celebrations, May is also Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as a gratuitous nod to an appreciation of “diversity”:
Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed immeasurably to our Nation’s development and diversity as a people.
It’s also Older Americans Month, as Trump declared:
Our country and our communities are strong today because of the care and dedication of our elders. Their unique perspectives and experiences have endowed us with valuable wisdom and guidance, and we commit to learning from them and ensuring their safety and comfort.
My Administration is focused on the priorities of our Nation’s seniors. The Department of Justice, for example, is focused on protecting seniors from fraud and abuse. My Administration is also committed to protecting the Social Security system so that seniors who have contributed to the system can receive benefits from it. We are also dedicated to improving healthcare, including by increasing the quality of care our veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs and by lowering prescription drug prices for millions of Americans.
Except that everything Trump’s administration has done goes against seniors, including rolling back the Consumer Financial Protection Board which helps seniors (and everyone else) address predatory tactics by financial industry, including Obama-era rules reining in PayDay lenders; has exploded the budget deficit in order to justify pulling billions out of Medicare and Social Security, is determined to narrow Medicaid, has sabotaged the Affordable Care Act resulting in higher premiums, and is risking the Veterans Administration’s ability to provide the specialized health care veterans require by its intent to privatize and put in charge Dr. Ronny with absolutely no experience whatsoever. And let’s examine again what this administration has not done to address opioid addiction or skyrocketing cost of prescription medication. What exactly has this administration done for seniors?
And now Republicans are taking $800 million out of Medicare and standing by as drug costs continue to skyrocket.
Of course, May finishes with Memorial Day, and Trump will no doubt pull out one of the proclamations that express such appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedoms – 660,000 have died in all America’s wars since the Revolution (when 4,435 died), including 1,000 in the Indian Wars (1817-1898), 225,000 in the Civil War (140,414 for the Union, 74,524 Confederates); 53,402 in World War I, 291,557 in World War II, 33,739 in the Korean War, 47,434 in Vietnam and 6915 in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).
Millions more have returned home, some with lifelong injuries both physical and mental. Trump’s answer to these Veterans isn’t the same as during Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, or the efforts taken to improve access to health care and other services including a new GI Bill. Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize the Veterans Administration which is opposed by most veterans.
We ask so much of our military spouses: frequent moves; heartbreaking separations; parenting alone; incomplete celebrations; and weeks, months, and sometimes years of waiting for a loved one’s safe return from harm’s way. Time and time again, however, military spouses respond with resilience that defies explanation. Our service members are often praised as national heroes, but their spouses are equally worthy of that distinction.
My Administration is committed to taking care of our Armed Forces and ensuring that our military is equipped to defend our country and protect our way of life. This mission also includes caring for the unique needs of military spouses, whose service to our Nation cannot be overstated.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the third round of NaturalizeNY – the first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to encourage eligible immigrants in New York State in becoming U.S. citizens. Citizenship benefits immigrants through stronger protections from deportation, the right to vote and run for elected office, and the ability to assist more family members with immigrating to the United States.
“We are in unprecedented times, where the federal government is openly hostile to immigrants, putting blockades and walls in place to prevent them from achieving the American dream,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are a nation of immigrants, and New York will always fight to remove barriers to inclusion, including those that put low-income families at another disadvantage.”
Indeed, Donald Trump, who has refused to fix the DACA program, leaving 800,000 who were brought here as children in a state of perpetual anxiety, and has canceled the Temporary Immigration Status of tens of thousands of Honduras, Nicaraguans, El Salvadorans and others, said this week we might “have to think about closing up the country” if he doesn’t get his border wall. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress has shown no inclination to address comprehensive immigration reform, or even provide a path to legalization for DACA recipients.
NaturalizeNY is administered and supported by Governor Cuomo’s Office for New Americans in partnership with Robin Hood, New York Community Trust, Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab, as well as faculty from SUNY Albany and George Mason University.
The initiative assists low-income immigrants in gaining U.S. citizenship. Eligible immigrants may register and enter a lottery for a voucher to cover the $725 naturalization application fee. Applicants may apply online at www.NaturalizeNY.org, via the New Americans Hotline at 800-566-7636 or by visiting an ONA Opportunity Center. The registration period runs from May 1 – June 15, 2018.
Since 2016, 916 immigrant New Yorkers were offered vouchers through the program to cover naturalization fees. More than 3,000 immigrants entered the program seekinghelp to pursue citizenship. Up to 900 vouchers are expected to be awarded this year.
“My grandparents struggled with poverty in Ireland, and came to the United States looking for a better life,”said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “For many this is the quintessential American experience that binds us — regardless of whether the immigrants came a century ago or last week. It is that legacy of inclusion that has earned us the respect of people from around the world. Regardless of what occurs in Washington, the immigrant experience in our state is far more positive because of programs like this. We remain committed to helping them become citizens as they raise families, become entrepreneurs, start small businesses, and pursue new lives in communities throughout our state.”
NaturalizeNY registrants must be naturalization-eligible lawful permanent residents (green card holders) residing in New York State and have incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty guideline. They must not be eligible for a federal fee waiver.Registrants who win a voucher will be notified at the end of June and referred to an Office for New Americans Opportunity Center to complete the naturalization application and receive their voucher.
Office for New Americans Opportunity Centers provide comprehensive support through the naturalization process – featuring free eligibility screenings, application assistance, and naturalization exam preparation.
The federal government only grants U.S. citizenship to immigrants with lawful status after the individual fulfills the requirements established by Congress. The process of becoming a citizen, referred to as naturalization, generally includes an extensive application to the federal government, submission of fingerprints to be used for a criminal background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, passing a language and civics exam, and an interview with a federal immigration officer. After this process, an immigrant is not yet a U.S. citizen until after the individual takes the Oath of Allegiance at a citizenship ceremony.
“From the Office for New Americans, the Liberty Defense Project, and NaturalizeNY, Governor Cuomo has put in place robust resources for our immigrant communities,” New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said. “New York will continue to serve as a model for the rest of the nation on how we treat our neighbors. The NaturalizeNY lottery delivers the promise of hope to New Yorkers seeking to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship.”
NaturalizeNY also provides free comprehensive support through the naturalization process, including eligibility screenings, application assistance, naturalization exam preparation, and federal fee waiver application assistance. In addition to expanding opportunity for New Yorkers, NaturalizeNY will also provide a boost to the state’s economy.
NaturalizeNY lifts the financial barrier to citizenship faced by New Yorkers, creating opportunity for immigrants and New York’s diverse communities. According to the U.S. Census, 915,000 New Yorkers hold a green card and are eligible for citizenship, including approximately 654,720 in New York City. Recent research from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab found that the cost of the application was a major barrier to these immigrants seeking citizenship. The threshold to have the federal fee waived means New Yorkers could be blocked from becoming citizens because of the financial barrier. For example, an individual earning $35,000 a year makes too much to qualify for a federal fee waiver, and the cost of applying for citizenship works out to the equivalent of about a week’s pay. While the federal fee waiver is available to individuals whose household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, NaturalizeNY is open to those who are at 150 – 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Immigrants who become citizens see an almost 9 percent increase in earnings, according to a 2015 Urban Institute study. This leads to higher tax revenue and lower reliance on public benefits.
To support up to 1,800 citizenship applicants, New York State, Robin Hood and the New York Community Trust are investing more than $1.2 million to cover the $725 application fee through fee assistance vouchers. The funding will be paid directly to the federal government by the campaign partners and cover the full cost of the naturalization process. Vouchers will be awarded following the lottery in June, and administered by personnel from the Office for New Americans and Stanford University.
NaturalizeNY is part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to help immigrants and minority populations fully participate in New York’s civic and economic life. The Office for New Americans, the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Since its inception, the Office for New Americans has helped more than 200,000 New Americans navigate the naturalization process, start and grow their own businesses, learn English, and become part of New York’s diverse cultural fabric. Of these:
19,543 were Naturalization and DACA applications and referrals;
34,938 participated in ESOL classes throughout the state;
4,986 partook in entrepreneurship classes across New York;
500 graduated with at least 20 hours of English language coursework via Cell-Ed, a phone-based English learning system for individuals who have difficulty reaching an actual classroom; and
1,540 are actively engaged in Cell-Ed throughout the state.
The Office for New Americans work is enhanced by the New Americans hotline – 800-566-7636 – where individuals can obtain free, multi-lingual services and file fraud complaints. Since its inception, more than 150 complaints against fraudulent legal service providers made to the hotline have resulted in referrals to appropriate District Attorneys’ offices.
In addition to providing free, direct assistance to individuals, the Office for New Americans has conducted more than 6,000 seminars and meetings to educate New Yorkers on how to apply for a passport, how to apply for college, what to do if/when immigration officers come to their homes, what avenues are available for victims of domestic violence, and more.
The Office for New Americans also established a network of navigators throughout the state with a focus on providing accurate and reliable information to immigrant and refugee communities. These Office for New Americans navigators lead roundtable discussions with affiliated groups and advocates, workforce development programs, community conversations to forge relationships between communities, and trainings for additional navigators to further the Office for New Americans mission.
The Office for New Americans also recently launched another first-in-the-nation program to support parents and families caring for unaccompanied and/or undocumented children through a partnership with the Children’s Village and its Office for New Americans Centers at Central American Refugee Center in Long Island and Neighbors Link in Westchester County.
The successful Office for New Americans Opportunity Center model was recognized in 2017 at the United Nations’ Fourth Mayoral Forum on Human Mobility, Migration and Development in Berlin, Germany, marking the first time a state-led integration effort was recognized at a U.N. event.
The Office for New Americans has recently increased outreach in the wake of the Trump administration’s arbitrary decision to end Temporary Protected Status for individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Of the 114,127 Salvadorans currently living in New York State, 16,200 are Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries and will be impacted by the federal government’s decision to end recognition.
Liberty Defense Project
Created by Governor Cuomo in 2017 in response to hostile federal policies, the Liberty Defense Project is the nation’s first state-led project to assist immigrants -regardless of status – in obtaining access to legal services and process. The Liberty Defense Project provides essential legal services on deportation defense, direct representation, consultations, application assistance, and more. The public-private partnership is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, colleges, universities, and bar associations across the state.
Since July 2017, the Liberty Defense Project provided more than 10,000 free and confidential services to individuals needing legal assistance through its network of 47 community-based groups.
Immigrants and Refugees in New York State
According to the American Immigration Council:
One in five New Yorkers is an immigrant – 4.5 million, or 22.9 percent of the state’s population in 2015. One in six is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.
Immigrants make up more than 25 percent of New York’s labor force and contribute billions of dollars in federal and state taxes.
New York’s immigrant-led households added to the state’s economy by spending more than $103 billion in after-tax income in 2014 alone.
There are 347,573 immigrant business owners, accounting for 33.8 percent of all self-employed New York residents in 2015 and generating $7.2 billion in business income.
Nearly 44,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients live in New York,according to USCIS.
Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the State Assembly’s Taskforce on New Americans said, “As the federal government becomes increasingly more aggressive towards our New American communities, we are reminded that citizenship is a pin of safety, and we must continue to ensure accessibility to naturalization services. I commend Governor Cuomo for this valuable initiative.”
Shawn Morehead, program director overseeing The New York Community Trust’s work on immigration, said, “We want the newest New Yorkers to work, vote, and feel safe in our City. The Trust has a long history of helping the City’s immigrants participate fully in the city’s economy and democracy, and we’re thrilled to continue this tradition by underwriting the cost of applying for citizenship for hundreds of our neighbors.”
José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation, the nation’s leading Latino nonprofit membership organization, said, “As our immigrant brothers and sisters face a relentless assault from our federal government, NaturalizeNY is an important rejoinder that in New York we honor our state’s past, present, and future by investing in and supporting our immigrants. With Latinos representing the largest immigrant community in the Empire State, the Hispanic Federation and its network of Latino Community-based organizations applaud Governor Cuomo’s renewal of NaturalizeNYand remain committed to working with his Office for New Americans in enabling immigrants to become US citizens and break down financial barriers that are often in their way of naturalizing.”
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, said,“Catholic Charities is proud to again play a key role in this year’s NaturalizeNY lottery, helping New Yorkers across the state to register through the New Americans Hotline. This initiative by NYS to encourage citizenship is more important than ever at a time when anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric have continued to tear the very fabric of our society. We are a nation of immigrants. We are stronger and revitalized by welcoming and integrating immigrants into the United States.”
Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, said, “We thank the Governor for renewing NaturalizeNY for a third year to support low-income immigrants seeking financial assistance to cover their citizenship application fees – some of who benefited through our Opportunity Center. At a time where immigrant engagement is more important than ever, this program provides an opportunity for our community members to gain further access to civic and voter participation. We hope many in our diverse Asian immigrant communities will take advantage of this initiative.”
NEW YORK –The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Brooklyn Defender Services filed a federal class action lawsuit today challenging the recent cessation of bond hearings for immigrant detainees and the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of immigrants.
The administration’s halting of bond hearings in New York follows a February Supreme Court decision in a case from California, Jennings v. Rodriguez, holding that a federal immigration statute does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to decide whether the U.S. Constitution independently requires bond hearings and instead sent the case back to the appeals court in California to address that question. In New York, however, the federal appeals court already recognized that the Constitution requires such hearings in a 2015 case, Lora v. Shanahan. Nonetheless, the federal government has stopped providing them to immigrant detainees in New York. Today’s lawsuit seeks to restore bond hearings and due process protections for jailed immigrant New Yorkers.
“In the pursuit of its anti-immigrant agenda the Trump regime seeks to do away with basic legal protections that are fundamental to any notion of justice,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Immigrants are entitled to due process, and bond hearings are a vital safeguard against the unjustified and prolonged imprisonment that the Trump regime seeks to impose on all immigrants. The New York Civil Liberties Union and our partners will fight to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can rely on the rule of law even under the Trump regime. ”
Hundreds of thousands of people both with and without lawful status are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. Immigration detention can last months or even years, as people fight their deportation cases through a slow and backlogged immigration court system. Bond hearings are an essential opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that incarceration is not necessary to ensure that someone returns to court. Without a hearing, immigrants, including asylum seekers and green card holders, may remain locked up indefinitely while they fight their cases.
“Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Indefinite detention is contrary to our most basic constitutional principles and we are proud to continue the fight for due process and justice for our clients and their communities.”
The lead plaintiff in the class action, Augustin Sajous, is a 60-year-old Haitian man who has lived in the US for 46 years, since he became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s. He studied engineering, bought a house, and helped raise a family, but in recent years he has struggled with mental health issues, which led to bouts of homelessness. Mr. Sajous was arrested by ICE in September 2017 and is subject to deportation because of two 2015 misdemeanor convictions for bending MetroCards in order to use them with zero balance.
“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections,” said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We are taking action now to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers who are currently detained get a fair opportunity to secure their freedom.”
In addition to Wells, counsel on the case include NYCLU staff attorneys Robert Hodgson, Paige Austin, and Aadhithi Padmanabhan, associate legal director Christopher Dunn and paralegal Maria Rafael, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Michael Tan and deputy director Judy Rabinowitz, and BDS attorneys Andrea Saenz, Brooke Menschel, Zoey Jones and Bridget Kessler.