ALBANY -- Amid the national debate over immigration, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday issued an executive order that bans state agencies and State Police from asking about or disclosing an individual's immigration status in most cases.
The move is the latest by New York officials to counter attempts by the federal government to crack down on illegal immigration and amid the debate over whether to deport protecting young immigrants.
"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.
Cities across upstate, including Rochester, Kingston and Syracuse, have deemed themselves "sanctuary cities," meaning they will, in most cases, not use city resources to tackle immigration enforcement and buck federal policies.
Yonkers has also considered similar steps, while Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed an Immigration Protection Act last month.
The executive order by the Democratic governor, who has railed against recent immigration policies by the Trump administration, will only allow for questions about a person's immigration status if it "necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service."
State law enforcement also will not be able to inquire about immigration status unless investigating illegal criminal activity. For example, immigration status will not be allowed to be asked if a person seeks help from police or is the victim or witness to a crime.
Cuomo, who is seeking a third term in 2018 and is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, started in March a Liberty Defense Project, a public-private immigrant legal defense initiative that started with $10 million.
The state also has an Office for New Americans to help immigrants and includes a hotline to help them: 800-566-7636.
Immigration advocates praised Cuomo's order.
"Today's executive order is a major victory for immigrant communities and is one of the strongest confidentiality policies in the nation," said Javier Valdés, co-executive Director of Make the Road New York.