So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.
But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.
Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.
Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.
Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.
Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws. If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).
In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.
The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.
“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.
So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”
“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”
But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)
The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.
But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering, then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery? (Oh, he did that too).
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today filed a lawsuit to protect New York and its taxpayers from Washington’s drastic curtailment of the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction. The lawsuit, which was joined by Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, argues that the new SALT cap was enacted to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions, and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states.
Accusing the federal government of engaging in a host of un-American actions – ranging from Zero Tolerance for immigrants seeking asylum, to pushing oil and gas drilling off coasts, to the failure of the Trump Administration to sufficiently protect elections and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks by Russia and other foreign adversaries- he cited the tax reform act’s SALT provision as “un-American.”
“Put aside the philosophy and the top 1 percent getting 80 percent of the benefits, the so-called SALT provision was un-American. What you did was you divided the states, you penalized the democratic states.”
In a phone conference call with the press, Cuomo said that the lawsuit is being filed in the district court of the Southern District of New York, and seeks declaratory judgment that it is unconstitutional and injunctive relief.
“There are three causes of action that the lawsuit will lay out. The first one is that it’s a violation of the Tenth Amendment which was ratified in 1791. The Tenth Amendment prohibits the federal government from invading the sovereign tax authority of the states. Remember, the founding fathers who they loved to quote, these are co-equal sovereign the federal government and the states. That was the basis of the Constitution.
“And the Tenth Amendment prohibited the federal government from invading a state’s tax authority. And that’s what they did by their own admission. Secretary Mnuchin said, the purpose of the law was ‘to send a message to the state governments that they have to get their budgets in line.’ Ted Cruz said, ‘we want to get states to lower their taxes.
Paul Ryan said the same thing. This was their attempt to manipulate state governments.
The second cause of action is that it’s a violation of the 16th Amendment that was ratified in 1913, which states the federal government may not exercise its power to tax individual incomes without providing for deduction of state and local taxes. Alexander Hamilton was cited: “the individual states would under the proposed Constitution retain an independent and uncontrollable authority to raise revenue to any extend of which they may stand in need. By every kind of taxation except duties on imports and exports.” James Madison said, “the state’s status as co-equal sovereigns provided security against interference from the federal government.”
The third cause of action is a violation of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution that says, ‘the Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, impose excises to pay debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare, but it may not use its tax and spending authorities to exert a power akin to undue influence over the states or coerce the states into adopting policies preferred by the federal government.’ That goes back to case law to 1937.
Cuomo cited Abraham Lincoln when he passed the first federal income tax—the Revenue Act of 1862— “state and local taxes shall first be deducted to determine a taxpayer’s liability for the federal income taxes.” Justin Morrill in 1862, stated”‘as a matter of simple logic, the deduction is necessary to avoid both double taxation and the principle of federalism.” It also goes to the principle of federalism.
“This is their political attempt to hurt Democratic states,” Cuomo stated. “It is totally repugnant and hypocritical of the fundamental conservative ideology which they preach—the limited federal government, respect state rights. This tramples on their own theory. And it is politically motivated. And it was politically targeted. Steven Moore, the conservative economist who advised the Trump campaign, said the Republican tax bill represents death to the Democrats.
“This is not what our Founding Fathers intended. They did not intend for the federal government to manipulate or politically retaliate against states. It’s violative of the fundamental relationship between the federal government and the states. It is un-American, like what the president did with Putin yesterday, like what they did in Puerto Rico, like what they’ve done on immigration, like what they’ve done on trampling women’s rights. It is un-American. Not just repugnant to this state. Repugnant to the Constitution and the values of the American people.”
The 2017 federal tax law, “which resulted from a hyper-partisan and rushed process,” drastically reduced the deduction by capping it at $10,000. An analysis by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance shows that the cap will increase New Yorkers’ federal taxes by $14.3 billion in 2018 alone, and an additional $121 billion between 2019 and 2025. As set forth in the complaint, the law flies in the face of centuries of precedent, which establishes constitutional limits on the federal government’s ability to use its tax power to interfere with the sovereign authority of the states.
For the entire history of the United States, every federal income tax law protected the sovereign interests of the states by providing a deduction for all or a significant portion of state and local taxes. This uninterrupted history demonstrates that the unprecedented cap on the SALT deduction is unconstitutional, as the lawsuit notes. This new, drastic curtailment of the SALT deduction has both the purpose and effect of harming New York, other similarly situated states, and their residents. Among other things, the new cap will depress home prices, spending, and business sales, and result in slower growth for the New York economy and fewer jobs.
Countering the impression that New York is the highest taxed state in the country, Cuomo said, “The large tax in New York is not state income tax, it’s local taxes – that’s what they are targeting. We have people who pay more in property ax than income tax – if those jump 30% after we capped them with first proper tax cap in history, you will see home values go down, real estate values come down, because it will make this jurisdiction must more expensive, and there may be people right on margin. This is not a theoretical political argument, this is real life.
“Ask your neighbor if property taxes go up 30 percent, what will you do? That’s why we did the property tax cap in first place – 2% year over year – this would be 30 percent bump in property taxes, and if you see real estate values come down, we will have a problem with banks, funding for school districts, and have potential devastating consequences. That’s why wanted to move on expeditious basis.
“This state has been fiscally responsible. That’s undeniable. Our credit rating up, spending increases are at record lows, efficiency up. This is a different point: it’s not for fed government to determine local taxation. That is fundamental Constitutional point.
“We think they are doing it out of political intent. If they want to talk about reduce taxes, give us back the $48 billion they take from us – we are the highest Donor State in the nation. We have been since Moynihan railed against it. We give them $48 billion more than we get back. If you really want us to reduce taxes, give it back and I will reduce taxes.
“They set up two sets of rules,” Governor Cuomo asserted, “One for Republican states, one for Democratic states. If we can’t deduct, state and local taxes [effectively] go up 30 percent. We depend heavily on property taxes to fund local governments.”
The lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was led by Attorney General Underwood and joined by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, is against the United States, the IRS and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin as defendants.
Cuomo held out the possibility of other states, such as California, joining the suit. “We are forming a coalition, but time is of the essence.”
“New York will not be bullied. This cap is unconstitutional – going well beyond settled limits on federal power to impose an income tax, while deliberately targeting New York and similar states in an attempt to coerce us into changing our fiscal policies and the vital programs they support,” said Attorney General Underwood. “We will not allow partisans in Washington to hurt our people or interfere with our policies. We’ve filed suit against this unconstitutional attack on New York and our state’s fundamental rights — because we won’t stand by and let Washington pick the pockets of New Yorkers.”
“It was a number and a tax selected to effect what they wanted,” Cuomo charged. “You think it was a coincidence that it impacted 12 states, all Democratic, all states Trump lost, all that don’t have Republican representative in Congress? .. That puts democratic states on different footing. That’s why I’ve said this is economic civil war – red versus blue, Democratic versus Republican, and penalizing those states. But these are co-equal sovereigns. The federal government can’t do whatever want. It has a right to tax, and we have right to tax, I can’t interfere with the federal right to tax, and the federal government can’t interfere with our right to tax, and where they drew this line, arbitrary, because it had the desired effect.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was joined today by Nassau County leaders at a rally in New Hyde Park to fight to protect women’s reproductive rights. State and local leaders called on the Senate to return to Albany to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State Law. The rally follows the federal government’s decision Monday night to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Governor vowed to take action to defend New York’s progressive values against the extreme conservative agenda of the Trump Administration, including the fight to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law. New actions were also announced by the Governor on Monday to protect reproductive rights in anticipation of this Supreme Court Justice nomination.
“This federal government is threatening basic values New York and this entire nation were built upon, and while extreme conservatives in Washington make destructive decisions that violate the rights of our residents, New York is fighting to protect the progressive accomplishments that we have made,” Governor Cuomo said.“I call on every Senate Republican to come back and reconvene in Albany – no excuses. The Assembly will support codification of Roe v. Wade, I will sign the bill, the Senate Democrats will vote in favor of it and we will pass Roe v. Wade for New York.”
Noting that elections have consequences, Cuomo laid out the challenge to return to Albany to codify Roe into state law as a line in the sand.
“When you’re talking to our friends the Republican Senators, remind them in 1970, before Roe v. Wade, which was 1973, this state legalized abortion. 1970. With a Republican Senate and a Republican Governor because we understood it wasn’t a partisan issue, it was a fairness issue. It was a health issue. It was an equality issue. It was a woman being able to control her own body issue. We did it in 1970, don’t tell me in 2018 the Republican Senate is going to go backwards from 1970. We have to call to question. Elections have consequences and this is binary. They’re with us, they’re against us. And if they don’t come back, if they don’t codify Roe v. Wade, you know what we’re going to say?
“In the immortal words of President Trump, to the senators who won’t come back and sign a bill, you’re fired. We’re protecting the women in the state of New York. Women’s rights come first. Let’s sign the state Executive Order.”
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who attended a similar rally to protective reproductive rights with Governor Cuomo in Yonkers earlier, said, “I lost my seat in Congress over my steadfast support of the Affordable Care Act and the contraception mandate, and I know how critically important it is to protect these rights at the state level. That is why I stand with the Governor and the women of this great state in fighting back to ensure protections and safety for women when it comes to their reproductive health. Given all that is happening in Washington, these actions will protect women’s reproductive rights. As President of the State Senate, I’m also calling on Senate Republican leadership to protect the women of this state and pass the Reproductive Health Act and codify Roe v. Wade. No one should tell us what to do with our bodies. Not now, not ever.”
For years, Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to secure women’s access to reproductive health options, and noted that Republicans made a pretense of supporting women’s rights but blocked any consideration on the floor based on the federal protection under Roe. Now the Governor is calling their bluff and calling for the passage of legislation to protect the right of women to make personal health care decisions and ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty. The Assembly has passed legislation to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade for the last six years, including during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Additionally, through regulations by the Department of Financial Services and Department of Health, as directed by the Governor on Monday, New York State will ensure an insurer must cover over the counter emergency contraception in addition to all other contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and, as well as the dispensing of 12 months of contraceptive at one time, all without co-insurance, co-pays or deductibles. The Executive Order signed by the Governor on Monday, in addition to today’s rally, builds on Governor Cuomo’s 2018 Women’s Agenda: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity.
The updated DFS regulation mandates that health insurers:
Expand coverage requirements for contraceptive drugs, devices or other products for women approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Require coverage for emergency contraception with no cost sharing when acquired in any lawful manner including on an over the counter basis from an out of network pharmacy;
Permit a woman to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, removing the previously required three-month trial period;
Cover voluntary sterilization procedures for women and over-the-counter contraceptives without cost-sharing; and
Do not place restrictions or delays on contraceptive coverage not otherwise authorized under the regulation. This provision would prohibit quantity limits and other such restrictions.
The regulation codifies guidance issued in January 2017 regarding information that must be provided in formularies regarding contraceptives, including noting which contraceptives are covered without cost-sharing. Insurers will be required to publish an easily accessible, up-to-date, accurate and complete list of all covered contraceptive drugs, devices and other products on their formulary drug lists, including any tiering structure and any restrictions on the manner in which a drug may be obtained.
The accompanying DOH regulations permit a woman insured through Medicaid to fill 12 months of a prescribed contraceptive at one time, whereas previously, the limit was three months.
A copy of the proposed regulations can be found here.
“Women’s rights are under attack. Another Trump-appointed Justice will guarantee an ultra-conservative Court that is even more hostile to women’s health care protections. This will have dire consequences if we don’t act because New York decriminalized abortion before the Roe v. Wade decision,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “The women of New York State are looking to us to protect their hard-won rights, and we must not fail them.”
“The administration in Washington is preparing yet another assault on women’s reproductive rights with the nomination of an ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice. Earlier this year, and in countless previous legislative sessions, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “Year after year, our Republican colleagues in the Senate neglect to pass this legislation, insisting there is no threat to Roe v. Wade. Their inaction has shamefully put women’s reproductive health care in jeopardy. It’s time to codify Roe v. Wade. No more excuses.”
“The Trump Administration is committed to ensuring that millions of women across America lose essential access to the health care they absolutely require. We are facing an unprecedented attack on our health care, and rights by a federal government determined to replace evidence-based medically accurate public policy with politically driven ideology,” Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, said. “Governor Cuomo is standing up today to remind the nation that New York won’t go backwards; we won’t sit back quietly as our rights evaporate and we will resist this dismantling of our constitutionally protected rights.”
“Armed with a Supreme Court vacancy, the Trump regime is poised to pack the court in an effort to undo Roe v. Wade and curtail abortion to an extent not seen since 1973. New York can no longer put off fixing our state’s broken abortion law,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “The Reproductive Health Act would take abortion out of the criminal code so that New York can be a safe-haven where women and their health are valued and protected. That means codifying Roe and ensuring access to the information and services women — including pregnant women — need to protect their health.”
Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health said, “Governor Cuomo’s executive order today proves that, regardless of what happens at the federal level, states have tremendous power to shape their own state laws and can act now to protect women from the full-blown assault on their reproductive health and rights. The best defense against a hostile Supreme Court and Trump-Pence Administration is a strong state-level offense. States around the country should take note of this action – and Governor Cuomo’s previous regulations – and help lead the movement for reproductive freedom from the ground up.”
Cuomo Draws Line in the Sand for State Republican Lawmakers
Cuomo said that with the Trump administration dismantling rights – civil rights, voting rights, environmental and financial protections, a woman’s right to choose – it is up to the states to take action.
“Every day this federal government does something that is shocking to our senses…It’s shocking to us in New York because we are the exact opposite. We’re night and day from who they are and what they believe so we’re continually in a state of shock, but they are doing what they said they were going to do, and elections have consequences.
“And it is a wake-up call to all of us. My daughters, you know if you’re 21, 22, 23, young women you never even questioned your reproductive rights. You grew up in a generation where you just assumed, you know Roe v. Wade was 1973. 1973. Generations just grew up assuming this was the way it was. Couldn’t even imagine that a woman wouldn’t have the right to control her own body. That’s what they are saying. And they are serious. And it’s not just politics and this isn’t just a game. They are doing it. They’re doing what they said they would do
“They have their own view of what religions are right and what lifestyles are right and what sexuality is right and who should be an American and who shouldn’t be an American, and they are going to enforce that. It’s the greatest act of political hypocrisy, because conservatives used to stand for limited government, right? Less federal government. Leave it to the states, leave it to the individual rights.
“They are on track to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s what they want to do. That’s what they’ve wanted to do since it was passed in 1973. And it is a shock to the system. How could we possible go back to those days? Who even remembers what it was like before, when a woman couldn’t have an abortion? How many lost their lives, were damaged because of what they had to do in that situation? And that is what we’re looking at. They are pro-life.
“They also have their view of sexuality and they don’t agree with the LGBTQ community and that’s why they treat them as second-class citizens. Wanted to keep transgender out of the military, regardless of service, regardless of merits. They believe who should be an immigrant and who shouldn’t be an immigrant. A little hypocritical since we’re all immigrants, but they now decide they’re going to close the door. The separation of family policy – isn’t that a coincidence? They knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to stop people at the border. The first point was, build a wall. I am going to build a big wall, nobody can come. The President didn’t get a wall so he went to the “zero tolerance” policy. And now what he says to families is, if you show up, I’m going to take your children from you and send them to a place where you don’t even know where they are. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was a deterrent to stop people from coming when he couldn’t get the wall.
“They’re going to tell you which religion is right. They don’t believe that Muslims are an appropriate religion, and that’s the travel ban. They don’t believe with labor unions. Thank God for the teamsters. They don’t want labor unions. They just passed the Janus decision with the Supreme Court because they don’t want these annoying unions being able to organize employees, making it harder for management to negotiate with the workforce. It’s who they are and what they said they were going to do. And it is a frightening reality.
“We believe the opposite and it’s incumbent on us to act. To act. We’re not going to let them change our values. We’re not going to let them change or philosophy. We’re not going to let them change the way we treat one another. We’re not going to let them change our tolerance to intolerance. We’re not going to allow them to divide us. They’re not going to pick who has the right lifestyle and who has the right religion and who has the right sexuality and who has the right income level to deserve respect. We’re not going to let them do that.
“Federal government has rights, but you know what there was before the federal government? There were state governments and there were states’ rights. And states have the ability to stand up and act. And when they wouldn’t do anything in the face of the #MeToo movement, this state stood up and said, we’re going to pass the strongest anti-sexual harassment law in the United States of America. When they separated families at the border, this state stood up and said, that’s unconstitutional, it’s illegal, it violates due process, and we’re suing the federal government to put those families back together and to stop the separation.
“And we have to do the same thing on the issue of choice. They are going to overturn Roe v. Wade. We need a New York State law that codifies Roe v. Wade into the New York State law. And we need that law in place before they overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Now, we’ve been trying to get the New York State legislature, the Senate, to pass a New York State Roe v. Wade. That’s all the law would say. Take the federal ruling in Roe v. Wade—1973—and enact it into a state law.
“Currently, the New York State law is not as strong as Roe v. Wade because we had Roe v. Wade. And I’ve been arguing with the Republicans in the Senate, frankly, why don’t we codify it into New York state law? And the Republican Senators have been saying to me, well we have Roe v. Wade. We don’t need it. No one would be crazy enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the answer JoAnn has been getting for years when Planned Parenthood would lobby for New York State law. We don’t need it, we have Roe v. Wade. Well you know what? Now we need it. Now we need it.
“And I want the New York State Senators to come back today, tomorrow, to go to Albany, and pass and New York State Roe v. Wade, period. And no excuses. No excuses. For years they’ve been doing this dance, the Republican Senators. Privately they say, I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-choice. When the bill comes up, I’m going to vote pro-choice. [Planned Parenthood of Nassau County CEO]JoAnn [Smith] will tell you. But then, they never let the bill come up. We tried to force a vote this legislative session. They won’t put the bill on the floor. Why? It’s a little game they play. It allows them to say privately, when the bill comes up, I’ll vote yes. But, the bill never comes up, so they can tell one audience, yes, I’m pro-choice. Then they can go to another audience and say, we’ll never pass choice in the state of New York.
“We have to call to question. This is binary. This is black and white. You are either pro-choice or you are not pro-choice and we don’t have Roe v.Wade to fall back on anymore. It’s only what we have in New York State law. And the New York State law does not go as far as Roe v. Wade and if we have only the New York State law, we’re in trouble. It does not do life and health. It is in the criminal code. We will have a problem. We need that law. We have to call to question and we have to say to the Republican Senators who have been having it both ways for too long, that’s over. You are with us or against us. And if you are with us don’t just tell me. Go up to Albany and pass a bill. That’s how I know that you are with the women and the men of this state who support choice. That’s what it has to be.
“In the meantime, I’m going to sign an Executive Order that guarantees the women in this state the right to contraception. I don’t care what the insurance company says or what the bureaucracy says. Women have the right to contraception. But we have to learn the lesson, my friends. Elections have consequences. Elections have consequences. And this is a wakeup call. If what they did on immigration and unions and what they did to Muslims wasn’t enough, this is an attack on every woman’s rights to control her own reproductive health in the United States of America. This is a direct attack on what we knew in 1970.”
Nassau County leaders who joined the Governor today in calling on the State Senate to reconvene and codify Roe v. Wade into state law included:
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas
Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman
Town of North Hempstead Clerk Wayne Wink
Town of Hempstead Clerk Sylvia Cabana
JoAnn Smith, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County
Rebecca Sanin, President and CEO, Health and Welfare Council of Long Island
Matty Aracich, President, Nassau and Suffolk Building Trades Council
The question that came to my mind as I listened to Natanya Briendel, director of the Westchester Division at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, speak at the monthly meeting of Reach Out America, a Long Island-based activist group, was how Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ roundups of undocumented immigrants rests on a concept that the Constitution – specifically due process – does not apply to non-citizens. Technically, then, any foreigner in the United States could be picked up and denied habeas corpus – the right to appear speedily in front of a judge, hear the charges and put up a defense.
She described situations where people are being rounded up based on an accusation, and if they are undocumented, immediately incarcerated and deported. No warrant. No reasonable cause to justify a search. No right to legal counsel or even a hearing before a judge.
Even people who are claiming asylum based on escaping violence in their home country, are treated as if they were criminals.
The result has been sheer terror for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Why so many? Because Republicans going back to Reagan have refused to establish a workable immigration program; during Obama’s Administration, the House Republicans literally shoved a Comprehensive Immigration bill in the desk and never voted on it. Employers have benefited from having a pool of people who are abused, cheated, and treated like indentured servants.
Here in Long Island, we have an instance where just being Hispanic renders a high school student vulnerable to accusations of membership in the dreaded M-13 gang based on what colors you wear to school.
Donald Trump in his national security speech (really a rehash of his dystopian inaugural address), equates all immigrants as terrorists, regardless if they have lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for decades, describing the need to shut off refugees, cancel DACA, end the possibility of family members obtaining legal status. Even individuals currently serving in the military, who were promised citizenship at the end of their tour, will be subject to deportation.
Our strategy advances four vital national interests. First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland. It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.”
The callousness, the stupidity, the sheer contradiction of American values, principles, and law.
Meanwhile, 12,762 DACA recipients – 122 a day – have lost their protected status since September 5, when President Trump rescinded the executive order that protected immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation, who were raised in the United States which is the only country they know. Trump gave a deadline of March, but the Republican Congress has shown it doesn’t actually care. Trump has reneged on the “deal” he appeared to make with Schumer and Pelosi; Democrats have threatened to use the only leverage they have – shutting down government by refusing to reauthorize a budget resolution – but that is unlikely.
Immigrants are no longer welcome. That is, unless the immigrant can buy a visa by investing $500,000 in a Trump family real estate venture, or a migrant imported to work at Mar-a-Lago (when there are tens of thousands of Puerto Rican hotel workers who lost their jobs after Maria and have sought refuge in Florida – why is he not hiring them? Answer: because they can register to vote in Florida. After all, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.)
On the other hand, the way Trump and Sessions are inflicting their might, it means that undocumented individuals are no longer protected by law – they can be physically abused by a spouse, cheated by an employer of their wages, have their children taken from them without recourse to seek custody. They have no way of protecting their civil rights, their human rights, because the courthouse has become a locus for them to be snatched up by immigration officers. They are fearful to report crimes; certainly to warn officials of any terror threats.
Here on Long Island – the very place where Trump gave a speech suggesting that police officers don’t have to be “so nice” when they stuff someone into their patrol car, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. This suit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a resident of Long Island for 21 years, where he has raised two sons, who should have been released after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct but instead was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail.
“Not only should local law enforcement reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, but state law is also clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”
The day before Trump gave his national security speech calling again for a border wall and shutting down immigration, and offering not a crumb of possibility of the comprehensive immigration reform that should have been in place for 30 years so that people can get some legal status and not live in the shadows where they can be exploited, was United Nations International Migrants Day. Not a peep from the White House. Instead, the United States announced it would end participation in the UN process to develop a Global Compact on Migration (GCM) based on the claim that it would undermine “sovereignty”.
With civil war, ethnic conflict, gang violence, drought, famine, floods, wildfires and climate disasters, there are the largest number of refugees and displaced people in numbers not seen since World War II: 40 8 million displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015; an estimated 64 million are impacted by climate.
(Trump, in his national security speech, dismissed climate change as a national security threat, suggesting instead that increasing American energy production would be the counter balance.)
Immigrants are lumped together. “You think the countries are giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that?”Trump said at a press conference. “They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking them is really the worst of the worst.”
Trump’s view – big on a wall stretching along the southern border, a travel ban which shuts down access from six Muslim majority nations (none of which have been responsible for terrorism in the US), reducing the number of refugees who will be accepted to a trickle (45,000) while threatening to throw out others (Haitians, Nicaraguans) – is to pull up the drawbridge, much like the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain or China’s Bamboo Curtain, and keep us equally isolated and ignorant, reciting the Trump mantra of America’s Greatness.
Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies, scrubbing reports and websites, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.
It is more: the disdain for civil rights for noncitizens within our borders means that the Trump Doctrine, which we now know is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.
“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause. We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”
Trump’s view, enabled by the Republican Congress, is so warped. But there is another way: reauthorize DACA with a path to citizenship; provide legal status (not citizenship) for people who came illegally but who have worked and made homes here and have no significant criminal record, particularly the parents of DACA recipients and American children; have vetting for travelers, but accept travelers; exercise moral responsibility in accepting refugees, helping resettle refugees, and contributing funds toward refugee communities. And participate in the world to reduce the causes for refugees, migrants and immigrants: help end the conflicts and violence that sets people on their precarious journey; address climate change that is resulting in communities being uninhabitable; and advance the quality of life in these countries.
None of these generators of the desperation that motivates people to uproot their lives and take a treacherous journey to a strange place are satisfied by Trump’s “national security strategy” which puts American First and to hell with the rest of the world.