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Flanagan rejects Assembly Dems’ anti-Trump Liberty Act

New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan  (R-East

New York Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan  (R-East Northport) dismissed Democratic proposals to make New York a "sanctuary state" against President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies. Credit: Newsday / William Perlman

ALBANY — The Legislature’s top Republican on Tuesday dismissed Democratic proposals to make New York a “sanctuary state” against President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

“The legislation is prohibiting law enforcement personnel in the state of New York from enforcing federal law — it’s unconstitutional,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said.

On Monday, the state’s Democrat-led Assembly passed a bill that would create the Liberty Act, which would restrict the Republican Trump administration from trying to root out undocumented immigrants and deport them.

The package of proposals would:

  • Prohibit the “unnecessary” questioning of people about their immigration status;
  • Keep state and local police from stopping, questioning or arresting people based on their perceived immigration status;
  • Prohibit law enforcement agencies from asking about a person’s immigration status who seeks assistance as a victim of crimes, such as human trafficking and domestic violence;
  • Forbid state and local agencies spending any public money to help federal officials create or maintain a database or registry of people based on race, color, religion or national or ethnic origin.

Flanagan also rejected a longtime priority of the Assembly’s Democratic majority — companion legislation called the Dream Act. The measure would help immigrants, including those who came to the United States as children without proper documentation, receive assistance and financial aid to attend college, among other goals.

“Our members are very strongly opposed to the Dream Act,” Flanagan said. “There are tons of middle-class families in the state who are struggling … my priority obligation, the position of our members, is let’s make sure we take care of hardworking middle-class taxpayers who are struggling.”

Flanagan’s flat rejection of the sanctuary state package sets up the first sharp ideological divide of the legislative session that could make negotiation on other policies in the state budget more contentious.

The Assembly’s package of bills that was passed Monday night can’t become law without support by Flanagan and the Republican majority conference. But the Republicans share control of the chamber to a degree with the smaller Independent Democratic Conference.

If the IDC chooses, it could try to persuade the GOP to bring the Liberty and Dream legislation to the floor, where each could gain enough support among Democrats in the IDC and the mainline conference in the minority to pass.

But that is unlikely on issues that conflict so strongly with the Republicans’ ideology, and the GOP has blocked previous versions of the Dream Act for several years.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), however, said the Liberty Act and Dream Act proposals remain top priorities for his chamber.

“For decades, New York’s harbor welcomed millions of immigrants that helped shape our nation into the strong, diverse country it is today,” he said. “The Assembly Majority believes that the continued success of our state depends on ensuring that immigrants have access to the resources they need to make meaningful contributions to their communities without the fear of inappropriate deportation and other serious consequences.”

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