New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said on Friday that she’s sprinting to help legalize the immigration statuses of “as many as we can possibly handle” before Donald Trump becomes president.
Addressing a municipal-law forum, James said that she wants to help people who aren’t legally permitted to be in the United States achieve the American dream.
“My goal is to make sure that every undocumented immigrant in our city gets a shot at it,” said James, who is first in line to succeed the mayor.
Estimates vary, from 500,000 to 750,000, on how many such immigrants live in New York.
“We cannot turn our backs of the citizens of tomorrow, and we can’t lift the ladder up behind them,” said James, a Democrat. “We must help those in need and especially our children.”
During the campaign, Trump promised to deport the estimated 11 million people living without legal permission in the United States and to build a wall on the southern border — and make Mexico pay for it.
On Sunday, Trump said on the CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” that he planned to deport or jail as many as 3 million of those without legal permission who have criminal records.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has promised to resist Trump, a Republican, on issues like immigration. In 2014, de Blasio signed a law prohibiting the city from locking up an arrestee based only on the federal government’s claim of illegal immigration. Trump has condemned “sanctuary cities” for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. He has threatened when he is president to cut off those cities from receiving certain federal funds.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on WNYC, de Blasio said Friday that NYPD officers “are not going to be in the business of deportation.”
“We’re not going to participate in anything like a mass deportation,” he said.
At the NYPD’s headquarters later, de Blasio said of immigrants: “New York City will have their back.”
In her speech Friday, James urged her audience — at New York Law School’s six-times-a-year CityLaw breakfast — to volunteer to help immigrants.
“The lawyers in my office have committed to taking on cases pro bono as immigrants are rushing to file papers before the new administration takes hold, and I urge all of you to join,” she said.