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Protect & Promote Equality

A Safe Haven in the Making

The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants in the United States — starting with the Muslim travel ban in his first week in office — has become a flashpoint in New York. With more immigrants and undocumented individuals living in our state than almost any other in the nation, it is critical that the NYCLU stands up against the Trump regime’s crackdown on some of our most vulnerable communities.

Our work is leading the way forward for immigrants’ rights, both here at home and across the country. We earned two significant legislative victories at the state level in 2019, further enshrining immigrants’ rights in the Empire State:

  • Lawmakers passed the Fair Labor Practices Act, a win that comes after years of legal battles, organizing, and lobbying by farmworkers and allies from across the state, recognizing farmworkers’ state constitutional right to organize. As a primarily immigrant group, farmworkers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, sexual assault, and often dangerous working conditions.“Without farmworkers and our labor, New Yorkers wouldn’t have fruits or vegetables to put on their dinner table,” said Crispin Hernandez, lead plaintiff in our lawsuit. He was fired from an upstate dairy farm for speaking with coworkers and a human rights organizer. “We all deserve a safe and healthy place to work, but we face injustices and terrible conditions every day. We deserve to be treated like human beings.”Passed on Juneteenth, the law also makes clear that farmworkers have the right to a day of rest, the ability to earn overtime, and more, putting an end to a Jim Crow-era carveout in the state’s labor laws that has denied farmworkers the same basic protections as other workers for nearly a century.
  • We were influential in passing the Green Light Law, helping New York join 14 other states that extend eligibility for driver’s licenses to undocumented residents — critical when driving is necessary for school, work, and doctors’ appointments. The law also enhances public safety: police can focus on enforcing road safety, not federal immigration laws, and other states report a reduction in hit-and-runs and increased revenue.The law expands acceptable forms of identification on a driver’s license application to include valid foreign documents, but applicants must still pass written and road tests and obtain insurance. And the law is designed to protect New Yorkers’ confidentiality, requiring that the DMV won’t disclose records or information to any agency that primarily enforces immigration law without a court order or judicial warrant.In July, county clerks from Erie, Monroe and Rensselaer filed federal lawsuits challenging the law, claiming that their compliance would violate a number of federal statutes, including one that prohibits state and local governments from limiting immigration-related information sharing with federal authorities. In a court brief, we noted that every lower court to recently consider this issue has found that federal statute unconstitutional. Federal judges dismissed the cases.Green Light also caught Trump’s ire. His administration retaliated by suspending Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs for New Yorkers in early February 2020. Within days, we filed a federal lawsuit against this blatant attempt to bully the state into abandoning protections for immigrants.

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Low-wage and immigrant workers are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19—in particular immigrants without an authorized federal immigration status, who are not eligible for federal and state relief programs. Read our letter to Governor Cuomo demanding support for all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.