Cuomo Outlines Equal Rights Policies

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday vowed New York would "fight sexism and racism and bigotry," announcing a series of steps the state will take.

At a church in Harlem, Cuomo gave an impassioned speech about the reactions after the presidential election, saying New York would not stand for intolerance.

"The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on Election Day," Cuomo said.  "In many ways it has gotten worse, into a social crisis that now challenges our identity as a state and as a nation and our people."

Cuomo said the state will form a State Police team to crack down on hate crimes that have grown after Election Day. 

He said the state plans to develop a program to provide financial help to poor immigrants who may face deportation under proposals being outlined by President-elect Donald Trump.  Cuomo also said he would seek a new law that would strengthen rights for students in schools.

As the grandson of Italian immigrants, Cuomo said New York has a special place in the fight for equal rights for all people.

"New York is the welcome mat to the world. Ellis Island is where generations signed the American compact," the Democratic governor said.  "The Statue of Liberty stands in our harbor, and New Yorkers hold the torch, and today, that torch must be held higher and that torch must shine brighter than ever before."

With the election of Trump, a fellow New Yorker and Queens native, Cuomo has sought to position himself as a Democratic counterpoint to Republicans' message nationally.  He has been rumored as a presidential candidate in 2020, but recently said he's only focused on being governor and running for a third term in 2018.

Cuomo said in January, the start of the legislative session, he will propose an expansion of the state's Human Rights Law to ensure students in public and private schools are specifically protected from hate crimes.

The State Police unit will investigate every hate crime in New York and "prosecute the perpetrator to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

In another move, Cuomo said the state will send a letter to every college student in the state "explaining their rights and responsibilities as citizens of New York."

Cuomo outlined a plan for a public-private legal defense fund to help immigrants who may pressure from the federal government.

"If there is a move to deport immigrants then I say start with me. I am a son of immigrants," Cuomo said.
He said his grandfather, Andrea Cuomo, was "a poor, Italian immigrant who came to this country without a job, without money, or resources and he was here only for the promise of America."

Cuomo has spoken to Trump since his election, saying he would work him on common interests that would benefit the state, such as infrastructure funding.

But Cuomo has warned against Trump infringing on the state's rights. New York is home to 4.4 million immigrants, or 22 percent of the population; second only to California in the nation.

"We remember what made this nation the greatest nation on this earth," Cuomo concluded.  "We are going to keep that dream alive, and we are going to fight to keep that dream alive and work to make it a reality for all of us."


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