Cuomo vows to protect Caribbean immigrants

Amid draconian measures in clamping down on Caribbean and other immigrants in the United States, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reaffirmed his commitment to protecting Caribbean and other nationals.

Stating that the state of New York has a long history of fighting for immigrants — from the state’s commitment to helping newcomers find a path to citizenship to efforts to prevent the exploitation of workers, and most recently by defending the rights of immigrants from illegal deportations — Cuomo said New York “has been and today remains a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world.

“That is who we are as a state,” he wrote in an opion piece in the New York Daily News. “Sadly, the federal government seems to have forgotten who we are as a nation. Maybe what they need is a visit to Lady Liberty, where Emma Lazarus’ poem is engraved on the pedestal on which she stands, underpinning our core values of liberty and justice: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

“This is not just an expression of charity; it’s a plea to people around the world to help us meet the needs of the country and our state,” the governor added. “That’s why in New York we are reaffirming our commitment to protecting immigrants’ rights.

“And that’s why each new effort by the federal government to ban our immigrant sisters and brothers will be met by a redoubling of our commitment to support and protect them,” he continued. “Because, after all, we are them.

“From Brooklyn to Utica, Washington Heights to Buffalo, we are a state of immigrants,” Cuomo said. “Our buildings, roads and bridges could not have been built without their skill and strength. The success of our small businesses is a testament to their hard work. The arts, culinary and hospitality industries are infused with the spirit of ethnic diversity that results from our open doors. The truth is that immigrants don’t hurt our economy, they fuel its growth.”

The Trump administration has moved aggressively to fulfill one of the president’s most contentious campaign promises, banning entry into the United States by refugees from around the world and prohibiting most visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries.

Freed by the US Supreme Court to partly revive Trump’s travel ban, administration officials said the American border would be shut to those groups unless specific individuals can prove they have close family members living in the United States, or are coming to attend a university or accept a job offer, according to the New York Times.

The paper said the Trump administration has begun a new tactic in cracking down on Caribbean and other illegal immigrants in the United States.

This time, immigration agents are arresting undocumented parents suspected of having paid to have their children ushered into the country by smugglers, the Times reported.

But Cuomo said, from the beginning, his administration has prioritized support for immigrants to help them join “our great mosaic of a society and contribute to our civic life.”

He said his Office of New Americans, launched in 2013, has provided legal assistance to people on the path to citizenship — with more than 150,000 served.

Last month, Cuomo said his administration announced the second year of “Naturalize NY,” which eases the financial burden of the naturalization process by offering application vouchers to thousands of hard-working Caribbean and other immigrants.

Equally essential, he said, the Worker Exploitation Task Force has been hard at work making sure undocumented workers are treated fairly and paid adequately.

As attorney general, Cuomo said he “saw these injustices first-hand.

“That’s why, as governor, I’ve put 700 investigators on the job of stopping the secret, shadow economy of exploited labor,” he said, disclosing that, in the first three months of 2017, US$10 million in recovered wages was returned to 15,489 victims of wage theft.

Additionally, this year, Cuomo announced the first-in-the-nation “Liberty Defense Project,” making good on our promise to protect immigrants in New York.

He said more than US$10 million in public and private investments are providing services to meet the surging legal needs of the state’s immigrants.

“When you attack immigrants, you attack the very premise of this nation,” Cuomo said. “Here in the glow of Lady Liberty’s torch, we will continue to lead the way forward, and immigrants will remain a vital part of the fabric of this state.

“We will show Washington, and the world, that the American Dream lives on for all those who seek a better life,” the governor added.