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Duane Praises Cuomo
September 26th, 2011

Sen. Thomas Duane is congratulating Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing a piece of legislation that will require the New York State Office of Aging to survey the needs of traditionally underserved elderly populations–including those in the lesbian, bay, bisexual and transgender communities.

The law also allows the director of office to make grants for purposes of training and education to organizations that provide services to the elderly lesbian and gay community. Duane sponsored the legislation in the Senate and Assemblymember Michah Kellner sponsored the legislation in the Assembly.

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By on September 26, 2011, 11:26 am
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Beer with Bloomberg
September 8th, 2011

Maybe Mayor Michael Bloomberg should not try folksy. His offer to sit down over a brew or two with the City Council member and political aide detained by police on Monday seems to have generated as much enthusiasm as a flat, warm mug of Keystone — or as President Barack Obama’s often ridiculed beer summit with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and a Cambridge, Mass., police officer

On Wednesday, Bloomberg described the police stopping and handcuffing of the councilmember, Juamaane Williams, and Kirsten John Foy, an aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, as probably “just a misunderstanding.” And he told reporters, “Hopefully every once in a while if there’s a misunderstanding, you have a beer together and work it out.”

Williams apparently does not drink beer. But the council member and Foy have more substantive problems with the mayor’s invite. While saying they appreciated the gesture, “this is bigger than the three of us over a beer,” the two men said in a statement. Instead they suggested a meeting with Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly “where young African American and Latino New Yorkers can talk openly and directly about their experiences with stop and frisk and other police interactions.”

Reactions from other City Council members after the jump.
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By on September 8, 2011, 4:52 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | Comments Off

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Jumaane Williams and the Police
September 6th, 2011

Anger and dismay over the police handcuffing of a City Council member and a top political aide following yesterday’s West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn today morphed into a call for changes in police stop and frisk polices and other procedures that target young black and Latino men.

At a crowded press conference on the City Hall steps the council member, Jumaane Williams of East Flatbush, and the aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Kristen John Foy, described their being stopped, handcuffed and briefly taken into custody as they tried to go to the Brooklyn museum yesterday afternoon.

By all accounts, the two men were attempting to enter a restricted – or frozen zone – after the parade. Both had identification and Williams was wearing a lapel pin indicating his membership on the City Council. They reached two checkpoints and the officers at them — probably senior, given that they were wearing white shirts –- allowed them to go through. But, Williams said, police stopped them at a third checkpoint, despite their credential.

“I was actually handcuffed while on then phone with the chief of police telling him what was going on,” Williams recounted.

Both were taken across the street to a synagogue where they were held for about 30 minutes until police established their identities and let them go. Neither man was charged with any wrongdoing.

Police have maintained that during the incident, someone punched a police officer, an account Williams vehemently disputed.

“I defy the NYPD to find one shred of evidence of any police officer being punched in the face,” he said, adding that report was “a bald-faced lie.”

While not criticizing overall police policies, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn echoed Williams on his conduct. “There is nothing, nothing, to indicate the Council member or Mr. Foy did anything wrong, ” she said.

Foy said he was shoved down and cuffed because “in retreat, they [police] decided I wasn’t moving fast enough, in retreat, I wasn’t complying enough.” The reports of the punch, Foy said, showed the police “making up a story to cover themselves.”

The police department has said it is investigating the incident, and, according to Williams, Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for it.

Putting this incident in a larger context — after the jump
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By on September 6, 2011, 1:38 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Quinn and ICE
August 17th, 2011

Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced legislation today that would prohibit New York City’s department of corrections from subsidizing the work of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Make the Road New York issued this statement supporting the move:

“The announcement by Speaker Quinn and Council Members Mark-Viverito and Daniel Dromm that the New York City Council will prohibit New York City’s Department of Corrections from subsidizing and supporting the deportation of thousands of non-criminal New Yorkers each year is fantastic news.

Every day New York City benefits from the energy, initiative and hard-work of immigrants. In a city where forty percent of all New Yorkers are immigrants, and for the City to do its job, New York City government must not burn bridges to immigrant communities. Today, New York City is taking a clear stand that it refuses to be in the business of tearing apart of immigrant families and subsidizing the deportation of non-criminal New Yorkers.”

Quinn’s legislation follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to pull out of the federal Secure Communities Program and the US government’s insistence that New York legally must take part in the program. Read the rest of this entry »

By on August 17, 2011, 1:12 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Immigrants,Work and Labor | 5 Comments »

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Bloomberg and the Achievement Gap
August 4th, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement earlier today of a major initiative to help young black and Latino men today, includes a big focus on education. Few would debate the wisdom of that.

Bloomberg has long patted himself on the back for narrowing the gap in academic achievement between the city’s white and Asian students on one hand and blacks and Latinos on the other. Today Chancellor Dennis Walcott sounded the theme. “We’ve come a long way in improving achievement for black and Latino young men, helping to narrow the racial gaps in state exams and graduation rates,” he said.

But as Bloomberg basks in praise (and some almost fawning press coverage) for tackling a truly tough issue, his record on ending education disparities is — to put it charitably – mixed.

The mayor noted the city had narrowed the gap in high school graduation rates between the races. And the evidence backs that up. But in myriad other areas — test scores, admission to elite high schools, admission to gifted and talented elementary programs, suspensions — the gap has remained essentially the same or widened under the Bloomberg regime.

Let’s looks at the numbers – after the jump.
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By on August 4, 2011, 3:34 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Demographics,Education | 3 Comments »

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Law on Pregnancy Centers Blocked
July 13th, 2011

A federal judge yesterday threw out a city law regulating so-called pregnancy crisis centers, only hours before the measure was set to take effect. The law, passed by City Council in March and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would require these centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions. They also would have had to post signs indicating whether they have medical professionals on staff.

The centers clearly have an anti-abortion agenda and try to encourage women to bear the child — either to keep or put up for adoption. Their attempts to conceal that, New York Civil Liberties executive director Donna Lieberman has said, misleads women and so can “pose serious health risks”

From the beginning, though, people affiliated with the center said the bill infringed on the centers’ rights to free speech.

Yesterday, Judge William H. Pauley III agreed, calling the law “offensive to free speech principles” and saying it was based on an “overly broad definition of commercial speech.”
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By on July 13, 2011, 10:15 pm
In category: City Hall,Civil Rights,Health,Law | 2 Comments »

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Views From the Capitol
June 27th, 2011

Wondering what it was like in Albany leading up to the historic same-sex marriage vote. Here are some pictures (of varying quality) I took last week. Feel free to share any photos of your own–from the Capitol, or from the celebrations across the state. Feel free to tweet them to @davidhowardking or @gothamgazette.

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By on June 27, 2011, 3:08 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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Why Sen. Kevin Parker Got Mad
June 25th, 2011

Last night as the country watched the New York State Senate vote on same-sex marriage things came to a jarring halt. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who was presiding over the chamber, called session into recess to find out what was happening on the floor. Were you watching? Did you wonder what was going on?

Essentially the Senate rules were changed in a backroom agreement before session started and then changed again during the vote to make sure it would be concluded to make the 11 p.m. newscasts.

Sen. Kevin Parker, a long time proponent of same-sex marriage, was informed by Senate staff that he would not be able to explain his vote. He was livid. He cursed out the governor and eventually stormed to the podium where Duffy was presiding — a number of other Democratic senators followed him, seemingly to calm him down.

Earlier when Sen. Ruben Diaz tried to lay the marriage bill aside he was ignored. Normal Senate procedure allows for any senator to lay a bill aside for debate. It gives legislators a chance to debate the bill then when they vote, they again have the chance to explain their vote. But the rules weren’t the same.

Parker told the Gazette that around 7 or 8 p.m. the Senate Democratic conference met and discussed a deal. “We were informed of he procedure,” said Parker. “Everyone knew Rev. Diaz  was going to lay the bill aside but we agreed not to debate the bill after he laid it aside. We would call the roll and all be able to explain our votes. We would be given two minutes each.”

The Gazette and a number of other sources reported the proposed limited debate earlier in the week. I was told to expect it by multiple senators earlier yesterday morning. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 25, 2011, 6:19 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Governing,Law | 24 Comments »

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Ball Will Vote No
June 23rd, 2011

The ever controversial Sen. Greg Ball has announced after a few weeks of teasing and working on religious exemptions that he will vote against the same-sex marriage bill. That leaves three undecided Republicans. A number of Republicans, including Ball, have stated that they think same-sex marriage will pass if it comes to a vote. If the vote takes place it will happen very late tonight, as the Assembly and Senate aren’t expected to start passing parts of the major deal until after 9 or 930, or  even possibly tomorrow, or next week. Who knows? Here is Ball’s statement:

“Knowing that marriage equality was likely to pass, I thought it important to force the issue of religious protections. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the distinct opportunity of listening to literally thousands of residents, on both sides of this issue, by holding an undecided stance. I thought it was important to listen to all of my constituents and hold an undecided position until the actual bill language was written and everyone’s voice had been heard. Now that the final text is public, I am proud that I have secured some strong protections for religious institutions and basic protections for religious organizations. The bill still lacks many of the basic religious protections I thought were vital, and for this reason, and as I did in the Assembly, I will be voting ‘no.’”

Republicans tried to beat ball in a primary last year because of the many controversies surrounding his behavior towards women. But he won the Republican primary and moved from the Assembly to the Senate.

By on June 23, 2011, 8:43 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Hurry Up And Wait
June 23rd, 2011

Bills still haven’t been printed for the “big ugly” so legislators aren’t voting on them which means we could all be in Albany for a very long time. Lobbyists and legislators are running out of clothes, protesters seem to be getting louder (it could be me though) and the overcast skies keep dripping sheets of rain down on all of us. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning telling reporters that he and his members will finally conference gay marriage to decide when and if to bring same-sex marriage to a vote in the senate. Skelos said he expects it to be a lengthy conference.Same-sex marriage lobbyists are saying that the vote is basically a done deal if it takes place–we will see.

Meanwhile it isn’t clear if all the details are set for the contents of the “big ugly”–that includes issues with rent and mandate relief. Lobbyists and others are saying they expect to be back in Albany early next week.

By on June 23, 2011, 12:24 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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Krueger Looks To Lady Gaga On #SSM
June 22nd, 2011

Senate Democrats have a hot new Twitter hash tag:  “#letusVote” to prod Senate Republicans to bring same-sex marriage legislation to the floor for a vote. Sen. Liz Krueger is credited with creating the tag and she has been trying to get prominent same-sex marriage proponents to use it. “@ladygaga #NYSenate needs your help!” Krueger tweeted. “Can you & ur Little Monsters pls help us trend #letusVOTE We want to vote for #samesexmarriage in NY” Lady Gaga has yet to pick up the tag says,” Krueger spokeswoman Katie Kincaid,” but we’re working on it
and in one day this # has picked up some serious steam, so we’ll keep on working at it.”A number of other Democratic senators and activists have picked up the call. Gaga has been calling legislators and lobbying them to bring marriage to a vote.

Senate Republicans spent a good amount of time during their two years in the minority kvetching about the majority’s ability to block any bill they didn’t want to come to a vote and now they are doing the thing they claimed so steadfastly to stand against. Advocates wonder how it is that a deal came together that does not include gay marriage and why when asked Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos continues to claim same-sex marriage was not discussed in meetings.

“The debate over same sex marriage is clearly one which deserves a vote. It would be a huge disservice to all New Yorkers, on both sides of the argument, if we left Albany without voting on the issue. Where’s the democracy in that?” asked Kincaid.

By on June 22, 2011, 6:21 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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Cuomo's Democratic Credentials
June 22nd, 2011

Its a dreary rainy day in Albany that has brought yet another leaders meeting and a lot more of the same–waiting. According to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos there remain a number of sticking points in the deal on rent regulations and mandate relief. He expects to vote on parts of the deal this afternoon–including the SUNY 2020 deal. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that he would like to finish voting on all the issues today. But Skelos  repeated a familiar refrain–that same sex marriage was not part of the discussion with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and  Silver. A refrain that has disturbed both same-sex marriage advocates and Democratic legislators. Their faith in Cuomo’s negotiations are waning.

As the details of the deal are hashed out few Democratic legislators and tenant advocates are not exactly hopeful that the rent deal will get any better for them. An emergency meeting of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative caucus was called today to discuss the rent deal. Yesterday many minority legislators from the city were trying to come to terms with the deal Cuomo negotiated. They thought they had made it clear him that he needed to deliver big on rent laws if he wanted their continued support.

For the last three months members have been talking about how the Cuomo administration has neglected them and could only make it right with a big delivery on rent laws and a vote on gay marriage to prove that Cuomo is still a Democrat. With such small gains in the rent package lawmakers are wondering whose side Cuomo is on and what exactly he was able to get for Democrats in the deal. It seems almost certain that gay marriage will pass if it comes to a vote but Skelos has made it clear that his members will decide whether to bring it to a vote.

With only a few days likely left of session in Albany minority lawmakers are trying to decide how best to represent themselves and their districts–go along with the popular Cuomo but go back to their districts with very little to show for it, or demand more of Cuomo, challenge the popular and powerful governor and be able to make it clear to their constituents that their best efforts were thwarted. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 22, 2011, 2:13 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Housing | Comments Off

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Bloomberg's Full Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage
June 16th, 2011

Here are Bloomberg’s full comments following his visit with the Senate Republican Majority:

“If you remember, at our founding, African-Americans were held in bondage. Catholics in New York could not hold office. Those without property could not vote. Women could not vote or hold office. And homosexuality, in some places, was a crime punishable by death.

“One by one, over many long years, the legal prohibitions to freedom and equality were overcome – some on the battlefield, some at the State House, and some in the courthouse.

“Throughout our history, each and every generation has expanded upon the freedoms won by their parents and grandparents. Each and every generation has removed some of the barriers to full participation in the American dream. And the next great barrier standing before our generation is the prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples. Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 16, 2011, 2:38 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

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Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage *Update*
June 15th, 2011

The New York State Assembly just passed a marriage equality bill by a vote of 80-63. The margin of victory is the lowest ever in the Assembly. Similar legislation has been approved by the Assembly four times now.

“This is a matter of equity and justice,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “New Yorkers should have the right to marry whom they choose. Partners unable to enter into a civil marriage, and their children, lack basic legal protections taken for granted by married couples.”

“Today, the Assembly has yet again put itself solidly on the side of justice and equality for all in New York State,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. “This is the fourth time that we in the Assembly have passed Marriage Equality under Speaker Silver’s unwavering support and leadership, and my courageous colleagues who have supported the bill since 2007 deserve immense praise and thanks. This action takes us one step closer to removing legalized discrimination from our law books and reclaiming New York’s position as a leader in equality for our nation.”

The bill now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his conference are supposed to continue their debate over what to do about the bill tomorrow morning.

Here is Silver’s statement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 15, 2011, 9:20 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Silver On Rent Extension *Update*
June 15th, 2011

As the Assembly finished up its vote on same-sex marriage legislation Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement saying he the Assembly will pass an extension to New York’s rent laws. The same sex marriage looks to be close..but it seems that it will pass. Same-sex marriage passed by a margin of 80-63 and the Assembly approved the rent law extension by a vote of 90-42.

Here is Silver’s statement:

“The Governor has sent, and the Assembly has agreed to pass, a short-term emergency extension to New York’s rent laws. This extension will expire at 3 p.m. on Friday. The Assembly Majority is committed to keeping housing affordable for more than two million New Yorkers and remains focused on expanding and strengthening these laws. That’s why the Assembly passed legislation more than a month ago to renew and expand rent laws. With the Governor’s leadership we hope to convince our colleagues in the State Senate to commit to strengthening these laws so that middle class New Yorker’s are able to remain in their homes.”

By on June 15, 2011, 9:04 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Housing | 1 Comment »

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Good News/Bad News For Same Sex Marriage
June 15th, 2011

The Assembly intends to vote on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage program bill today. Cuomo provided the chamber with a message of necessity and the bill is expected to pass.

On the other hand, Senate Republicans met as a conference to discuss whether to bring the bill to a vote in their chamber and after four hours they emerged with no news. “We will continue to conference the issue tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters. The Senate had been scheduled to begin session at 11 this morning.

By on June 15, 2011, 2:45 pm
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Full Steam Ahead on Gay Marriage
June 14th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced a program bill to allow all couples to marry in New York State. This is the same-sex marriage bill that Cuomo said he would only introduce if he had the votes to pass it. The bill says that religious institutions and benevolent organizations do can limit who uses their facilities for marriage ceremonies and says that no minister or clergy person has to “solemnize” a marriage. The bill would become law 30 days after Cuomo signs it.

“From the fight for women’s suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state — not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what’s right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and Marriage Equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story.”

Here is the press release from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 14, 2011, 3:28 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 5 Comments »

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Three Dems For Gay Marriage
June 13th, 2011

Sens. Joseph Addabbo, Shirley Huntley and Carl Kruger announced today that they support gay marriage. That means 29 of 30 Democrats now support gay marriage while it remains unclear exactly where the Republicans stand.

The Post reported this morning that seven Republicans have told Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they support gay marriage. But some of the legislators cited in the story have told other reporters that they oppose gay marriage.

Cuomo told reporters at a conference this afternoon that passage of the bill is up to the Senate Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he plans to discuss the bill with his conference tomorrow.

Cuomo plans to meet with gay marriage advocates today and then decide whether to introduce the bill. The bill would have to come later this week unless the governor issued a letter of necessity. Some legislators say they expect session to be over by Friday even though session is scheduled to go til next Monday. There is so much many issues left to be hashed out this year that it seems unlikely legislators will get an early exit. But who knows–this is Albany.

By on June 13, 2011, 4:25 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Tallying the Marriage Votes
June 13th, 2011

This morning we cited a story in the Post reporting that seven Republicans have told Gov. Andrew Cuomo they are prepared to vote in favor of marriage equality if and when the measure comes to the Senate floor.

The story by Fred Dicker cited Kemp Hannon of Nassau County, Charles Fuschillo of Suffolk County, Betty Little of Glens Falls, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, Greg Ball of Putnam County, James Alesi of Rochester and Roy McDonald of Rensselaer County — all of whom voted against marriage equality when the issue went down to defeat in December 2009 — as being “unexpected potential Senate Republican ‘yes’ votes.” Their switch, along with that of some Democrats, would be “more than enough to put the controversial and historic measure over the top this week, ” Dicker wrote.

But supporters of same-sex marriage should not pop the cork on the champagne bottles yet. Several of the senators cited in Dicker’s piece have told Liz Benjamin of State of Politics that they remain opposed to gay marriage. These include Hannon, Little and Fuschillo.

And in an interview with the Times, Alesi played it coy saying, “I do believe in the sanctity of marriage… I grew up a Roman Catholic. It’s a sacrament,” and then adding, “It’s a sacrament that exists in the 21st century.”

While no Republicans publicly backs the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said he will let members vote their conscience on the matter.

As for Democrats, the Times reports that one or more of three previously undecided Democrats who voted no last time around — Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo and Carl Kruger — could endorse the bill in the next day or so.

By on June 13, 2011, 2:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Morgenthau and Silver On Secure Communities
June 1st, 2011

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has nothing but praise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s  decision to suspend New York’s involvement in the Secure Communities program.

A number of law enforcement officials from across the state also have praised Cuomo for the move — along with a number of legislators and civil rights groups. The Gazette reported last week that Cuomo was considering withdrawing from the program and was likely to make a decision soon.

“I have long been concerned about the issues that arise when local police indiscriminately share information with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, cooperation with federal immigration officials creates a lack of trust in law enforcement among the public. This makes it hard for police and prosecutors to do their jobs because immigrants become reluctant to report crimes or cooperate with investigations,” said Morgenthau in a detailed statement. “That is why, during the 35 years I was district attorney in Manhattan, my policy was to never share the names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of a serious crime. ”

Morgenthau’s full statement and comments from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 1, 2011, 7:46 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Immigrants | 2 Comments »

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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