Susan Chiang

Amid national debate over immigration, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 15 issued an executive order barring state agencies and state police from asking about an individual’s immigration status.

Under the executive order, state agencies will be prohibited from asking about immigration status unless it’s required by law or necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit, the governor’s office said in a news release. The executive order also prohibits law enforcement officials from asking about immigration status unless they are investigating illegal criminal activity. “As Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy, we are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York became the Empire State due to the contributions of immigrants from every corner of the globe and we will not let the politics of fear and intimidation divide us.”

Cuomo’s executive order comes weeks after the Trump administration announced the end of an Obama-era immigration program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, that shields from deportation undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and grants them work permits. DACA recipients whose authorization expired before early March, when the program is slated to end, have until October to renew their working permits.

The Trump administration almost immediately received blowback from both sides of the aisle over its decision to end the program, which would affect 800,000 immigrants. Sixteen attorneys general including those from New York, California and Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, New York v. Trump, 17-cv-5228, arguing that President Donald Trump’s past rhetoric on immigration and Latinos represents an “animus-driven decision” to end DACA that violates the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process clauses, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (NYLJ, Sept. 6).

Earlier last week, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that they and Trump had reached an agreement to “enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that is acceptable to both sides.”

In a series of tweets on Sept. 14, Trump said there was no deal on DACA and that “massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent.”

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” the Republican president tweeted. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”

According to the executive order, state officers and employers, including law enforcement officers, cannot disclose information to federal immigration authorities for the purpose of federal immigration enforcement unless it’s required by law.

“This prohibition against inquiring into status includes, but is not limited to, when an individual approaches a law enforcement officer seeking assistance, is the victim of a crime or witness of a crime,” the executive order said. The order also bars law enforcement officials from using resources or personnel “for the purpose of detecting and apprehending” people who are suspected or wanted only for violating a civil immigration offense.

“Law enforcement officers have no authority to take any police action solely because the person is an undocumented alien. This includes identifying, questioning, detaining or demanding to inspect federal immigration documents,” the order said.